Tea Partier Defeated in Alabama Runoff

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A small data point certainly. But an establishment/mainstream Republican beat out a Tea Party activist for the Republican nomination for Alabama’s first congressional district tonight.

Overall, pretty difficult to see much that came out of tonight’s results that was anything but bad for the Tea Party or really the national Republican party as currently constituted – which is to say, under Tea Party dominance.

de Blasio’s win speaks for itself. But New York is a diverse, liberal city coming off 20 years of Republican and then quasi-Republican rule. It’s really a world unto itself in national terms. de Blasio’s win may be a harbinger of things to come in center-left and Democratic politics nationally. But it doesn’t really speak to anything about the GOP.

Cuccinelli’s loss probably stems from a lot of things. And he gave McAuliffe a much closer run than the runs suggested. But McAuliffe was a weak, let’s face it, almost comical candidate. I think it’s quite reasonable to argue that Cuccinelli’s extreme culture war positions just made him too toxic, even in a still fairly red state like Virginia.

Republicans tonight are trying to spin the line that the much closer than expected margin is due to Cuccinelli’s late efforts to make the race a referendum on Obamacare. I haven’t looked closely enough at the polls to see whether there’s a statistical argument for this, i.e., a late surge, or whether the polls just missed the margin by a few points. In the final analysis, Cuccinelli lost to a weak Democratic candidate in what is still a reddish-purple state in the height of the Obamacare rollout crapstorm. On those facts, it seems hard to make an argument about Obamacare’s toxicity that will appeal to anyone but hard GOP partisans and Ron Fournier.

Which brings us to Chris Christie. This was a big night for Christie. But it’s less clear to me whether it was a big night in New Jersey for the GOP. In almost any other context than a high margin winner that mainstream Republicans want to rally around, Christie is the ultimate RINO. He’s basically the kind of relatively moderate conservative who could have crossover appeal in a national election if Republicans allowed those people to run national elections. Alas, they do not.

The ‘different kind of conservative’ who runs at least in part against his own party’s crazies on Capitol Hill after a big reelection victory is what took George W. Bush to the White House. But Bush had Texas, evangelical Christianity and the ambiguously powerful cachet of the Bush family name to make the whole thing work. On a national level he was running in part against DC conservatism. But the party’s base, for many reasons, always knew that he was one of them on tax policy, hot-button social issues and national security. That’s not the case for Christie. He’s a quintessential Northeasterner with a coarse version of the region’s regional edge in a party dominated by the South. I just don’t see that happening.

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