TheÂ Tea PartyÂ may not be knocking off incumbents, but it doesnâ€™t appear to be losing any ground within the GOP.
So while conservatives werenâ€™t able to claim any more establishment scalps this 2014 primary cycle to place on the mantelpiece next toÂ Eric CantorÂ or Richard Lugar, they didnâ€™t suffer any significant losses or realÂ backlashÂ from the pro-business wing of the Republican Party.
The big target on the right Tuesday was Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, whoÂ faced a challengeÂ from Milton Wolf, a suburban Kansas City radiologist who first gained fame for being Barack Obamaâ€™s conservative second cousin. While the most serious Tea Party groups, such as Club for Growth, never played in the race, Wolf got endorsements from the Senate Conservatives Fund and the right-wing personalitiesÂ Mark LevinÂ and Erick Erickson. The challenger ran a race straight out of the Tea Party playbook, attacking Roberts for not being aÂ real resident of KansasÂ and for beingÂ too liberal.
But Wolfâ€™s campaign was never able to catch fire with conservatives. The doctorâ€™s efforts suffered a setback when it was discovered he had beenÂ posting macabre x-raysÂ on his personal Facebook page. It didnâ€™t help that the ongoingÂ Senate primaryÂ in Mississippi, whereÂ litigationÂ is continuing, sucked captured most of the attention of national conservatives. Wolfâ€™s biggest problem, though, might have been that Roberts remained focused on issues that played well back home, unlike other Republicans whom conservatives allege have â€œgone Washington.â€ While longtime Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar spent his time on nuclear proliferation and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor focused on raising money for the GOP, Roberts kept a much lower profile and focused on national security and agricultural issues. Both topics played well in a rural state with several major military bases.
Roberts ended up winning a narrow but decisive victory Tuesday, by a margin of 48 percent to 41 percent. Two other minor Tea Party candidates got the remaining votes, as the underfunded and unimpressive Wolf surprisingly managed to hold a three-term incumbent to less than 50 percent.
In Michigan, the GOP establishment had long been salivating over the prospect of taking downÂ second-term Rep. Justin AmashÂ but came up short. Amash, whom one GOP congressional colleague recently described as â€œal Qaeda's best friend in the Congressâ€ was outspent by his opponent, businessman Brian Ellis. In addition, Ellis was backed by seemingly every group in the traditional Republican coalition, includingÂ the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Farm Bureau, and Michigan Right to Life. But that wasnâ€™t enough.
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