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Opening Arguments

Is the tea party over?

The Republican Party was the big winner in Tuesday's primaries, because safe establishment candidates beat out those tea party extremists, which means the GOP has a great shot at retaking the Senate in November. That's the gist of most of the analyses I've read anyway. This one from NBC's Chuck Todd is typical:

After primary contests in six states last night and after a late night watching returns, here’s our take on Super Tuesday’s winners and losers. The biggest winner was the Republican Party and its chances of retaking the Senate next year. The reason why: Its voters didn’t advance a seriously flawed Tea Party candidate (think Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, or Todd Akin), which would give Democrats a better chance of winning in Georgia or Kentucky. Instead, the candidates the party has viewed as the most formidable on paper -- Mitch McConnell over Matt Bevin, a runoff of David Perdue and Jack Kingston instead of Paul Broun or Phil Gingrey -- were the ones who won or advanced. And throw in Monica Wehby, who won the GOP Senate nomination in Oregon and who gives Republicans an outside shot in that Democratic-leaning state. Back in 2010, former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said, “I’d rather have 30 Marco Rubios in the Senate than 60 Arlen Specters.” And that attitude produced a line of unelectable GOP nominees from 2010 to 2012. But last night and also in North Carolina earlier this month, Republican primary voters have lined up behind the candidates the party believes are the strongest for the general election.

Yeah, well, we'll see. I know we've covered this here more than once, but it can't be emphasized enough: Just having a Republican Senate doesn't mean diddly if the Republicans in the majority don't behave much differently than the Democrats. Anybody got proof that the GOP is really interested in smaller, less expensive government, please let me see it.

I do know one thing. If after 2016 the GOP has the House, Senate and the presidency all three, and some serious effort at restoring fiscal sanity isn't untertaken, the GOP should just fold up its tent and wander off, because the party won't deserve to be taken seriously any longer.

And I still continue to believe that reports of the tea party's demise are greatly exaggerated. It might not be winning primaries now, but it's still influential within the party. Because of pressure from the tea party faction, the GOP has actually shifted to the right. Not enough, obviously, but it's a start.