Tuesday's Republican primaries were the Tea Party's last chance. And the Tea Party struck out.
In Mississippi, challenger Chris McDaniel failed to dethrone six-term incumbent Senator Thad Cochran in the second round of their hard-fought contest. In Oklahoma, Representative James Lankford won by a massive margin over conservative favorite T.W. Shannon. The Tea Party industrial complex—groups like the Tea Party Patriots and FreedomWorks, figures like Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz—invested heavily in both races and came up short. Now both of these red states will almost assuredly send Republican senators to Washington who owe the national Tea Party nothing, and quite likely wish it ill.
Wasn't the Tea Party supposed to have come roaring back after then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his Virginia primary a couple of weeks ago? Conservatives hoped Cantor's toppling was a sign that there was more pent-up anti-incumbent sentiment than previously thought. But at this point, Cantor seems more an aberration than a portent. Part of the reason no one saw his defeat coming was that it cut so starkly against this trend.
In state after state this Republican primary season—particularly in Senate races—candidates acceptable to the party's business wing have defeated, co-opted, or marginalized right-wing populists. In Colorado on Tuesday night, another right-winger, former Representative Tom Tancredo, lost the gubernatorial nomination to former Representative Bob Beauprez, giving the establishment its preferred candidate to take on incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper.