The Tea Party's failure to knock off long-time Mississippi GOP Sen. Thad Cochran has depressed supporters, but the tight race not only showed that the movement is alive, but also that it is here to stay, according to the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
In a new analysis of the race between Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, the U.Va. political team, headed by Larry Sabato, found that competing ably with the establishment is a strong indicator that the Tea Party itself is become more established and a force that GOP leaders are going to have to deal with.
“The Tea Party, or the unorganized mass of voters who identify with the movement's anti-establishment and outsider tenets, is alive and well,” they wrote in the latest “Crystal Ball,” the center's weekly review of politics.
“They don’t win every race, or even a large majority of them, but they are now well established as a significant faction of the GOP in many states and congressional districts. Republican Party leaders can’t wish them away; the leaders need to deal them in, to the extent possible,” said Sabato’s team.
They also found that despite sneering by the Tea Party and conservative leaders, the Republican establishment is also healthy and able to fight back when needed.
“The establishment may get down but it is never out. Cochran’s victory, as slim as it was, was an impressive feat for the national and state party leadership,” they wrote.
What's more, the Cochran victory was a boost for the Republican National Committee, who won't have to work hard to defend the Senate seat now that the well-known senator has won his chance for another six-year term
“The national Republican Party is the big winner. Former Rep. Travis Childers, the Democratic nominee, probably wasn't going to beat even a controversial GOP nominee in Mississippi during a midterm election in a state where President Obama's approval rating is quite low. But the Democratic Party could have made McDaniel and his controversies the face of the Republican Party in plenty of competitive contests around the nation. Nowhere was the jubilation greater, once Cochran had won, than in the D.C. halls of GOP power. Now they don't have to spend a dime this fall in Mississippi, and they don't have to waste a breath defending McDaniel elsewhere,” said the UVa analysis.Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.