Voters Tuesday sent a strong message to the once-formidable tea party: We don’t like you and we don’t want you representing us in Congress.
Tea party candidates lost big in Senate primaries in Kentucky and Georgia as GOP voters rallied behind “establishment” party candidates who stand a better chance of running strong against Democratic candidates in the fall and, possibly, giving the party of the elephant control of the Senate.
In Kentucky, where the tea party hoped to knock off long-time nemesis and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, their candidate Matt Bevin didn’t even come close as McConnell racked up 60 percent of the vote.
Georgia faces a runoff between two candidates who led voting in a crowded primary — neither representing or endorsed by the tea party.
Voters turned off the political extremism. The tea party pot turned cold.
Tea party officials, of course, attempted the spin the losses Tuesday night, claiming candidates who won — including McConnell — now embrace their rigid right-wing positions.
“Everybody runs like a tea party candidate now,” Freedom Works president Matt Kibbe told The Washington Post.
“The establishment is ponying up resources and Republicans are generally starting to get behind some people who would like to see their government work,” says former GOP congressman Steven C. LaTourette, now head of the centrist Main Street Partnership. “Tuesday should be a wake-up call.”
The trend in Kentucky and Georgia played out in other states Tuesday. Right-wing candidates in Oregon fell to pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby, a centrist who talked about consensus and building coalitions. In Idaho, Congressman Mike Simpson beat tea party-backed Bryan Smith.
Turn out the lights. The tea party appears to be over.