This week's primaries were supposed to be a celebration for the so-called Tea Party, a phony grassroots movement that is really a front for the extreme right-wing.
Instead, several of the party's annointed candidates lost to establishment opponents and some who won -- like fringe candidate Sharron Angle in the Nevada GOP Senate primary -- highlight the con job the Tea Party is trying to pull on American voters.
The national "tea party" movement's recent winning streak broke with Tuesday's primary results, providing fresh evidence of the decentralized conservative network's struggle to convert activist anger and energy into electoral results.
That struggle is likely to continue as Republicans head into general elections without knowing whether conservative activists will throw their support behind more moderate GOP nominees. Even the tea party favorites who prevailed on Tuesday face the new challenge of fighting perceptions of extremism among moderate and independent voters.
From California to Virginia (with some notable exceptions), establishment-favored candidates won Tuesday in Republican primary battles for governor, House and Senate. In California, candidates who claimed the conservative mantle were outgunned by well-known and well-funded opponents. And in two congressional races in Virginia, where the tea party movement is popular and abundant, activists were unable to coalesce around a single candidate -- illustrating the organizational challenges facing the movement's grass roots.
A new Washington Post-ABC News polls show half of the American electorate now disapprove of the Tea Party and think of it as too extreme -- an 11 point jump in the group's negative rating.
Angle's win in Nevada may well be the beginning of the end of the Tea Party.
Writes Brent Budowsky in The Hill:
Will voters favor a candidate who supports saunas and massages for criminals, opposes Social Security and Medicare for seniors and fights against jobless benefits and jobs programs for workers? Don't bet on it, in Nevada or any other state. Mark the Nevada Senate campaign as leaning blue. The fad of the polyester populists of the right, who will vote like bank lobbyists in Congress, will soon come to an end.
The great Nevada campaign will prove the point I have been making all year. The Tea Party movement may control the Republican Party at the cost of losing many general elections. It is the oldest and truest timeless rule of politics. Voters oppose the status quo, but oppose extremism even more.
David Corn, writing for Politics Daily, says the more people find out about the Tea Party and the fringe candidates it backs the more the party loses support.
At first, the TP movement could be seen as a patriotic uprising with a time-tested and honorable moniker. And its original target was President Obama's health care overhaul -- a controversial move that many voters, independents especially, were wary of. But in recent weeks, the -- shall we say -- excesses of the Tea Party have been on display.
When Rand Paul won Kentucky's Republican Senate primary, he proudly declared, "I have a message from the Tea Party: we've come to take our government back." Paul, now the closest thing to a national spokesman for Tea Partyism, in the next few days proceeded to round out the usual Tea Party message by noting he did not support all of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and by saying that he believed Obama's pressure on BP, the despoiler of the Gulf of Mexico, was "un-American." Paul was simply sharing his true desire for small-government. But his remarks revealed the not-so-pretty libertarian underbelly of the leave-us-alone Tea Party movement and exposed its fundamental bias against using government to combat such wrongs as corporate pollution or racism. He looked like a John Bircher of the 1950s -- yet he was reflecting the current sentiments of his people.
The backlash is inevitable. The Tea Party is not -- and never has been -- the "grassroots" movement that is claims. It was born out of a sham grassroots organization created in the office of a Republican consultant for a millionaire GOP client and then nurtured into existance by former Republican Congressman Dick Armey of Texas.
It's a phony organization, espousing fake idealism, playing on the gullibility of those who flock to so-called "populist movements." It will make a lot of noise but -- in the end -- will accomplish nothing.