Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell's primary victory on Tuesday night in Kentucky will undoubtedly tempt many a pundit to write the Tea Party's eulogy. But the Tea Party will achieve in electoral death what it could never achieve in life: lasting control of the GOP agenda.
McConnell won because he's got a familiar name, a lot of money and the kind of political clout that makes up for occasional lapses from orthodoxy. That might not be enough next time – as a local Kentucky Republican leader told the National Journal last week, the state party is "still McConnell's Republican Party, but it's edging toward being Rand [Paul]'s Republican Party". But, it was enough to keep it from being challenger Matt Bevin's Republican party – especially after his unforced errors and willingness to prize ideological purity over more pragmatic concerns (like the $2bn in pork McConnell brought home for agreeing to end the government shutdown).
McConnell didn't win because he became a Tea Party member – he's so conservative, he didn't have to. (A vote analysis casts him as one of the top 25 conservative members of the Senate, and Tea Party darling and intrastate rival Paul is at number 19.) Instead, McConnell's win just shows how easily the GOP grows over its fringes.
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