Two weeks ago GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was soundly and unexpectedly beaten by tea party favorite David Brat in Virginia. Immediately the left was screaming that radicals had come to dominate or at least control the agenda of the GOP. Meanwhile on the right, tea party types declared it an absolute victory while the establishment sought to find excuses for the loss. More importantly, Cantor’s loss was seen as the beginning of a possible trend that would be played out across the country in the weeks that followed where establishment incumbents would be ousted by more conservative opponents in primaries. If the results of Tuesday’s primaries are any indication though, the tea party is in no position of dominance.

In primaries from New York to Oklahoma, from Mississippi to Colorado, tea party affiliated candidates were defeated. Now this isn’t to say that it was a total drubbing for conservatives as several races were extremely close. This is most true of the Senate race in Mississippi where incumbent Senator Thad Cochran had been trailing his tea party opponent Chris McDaniel. Cochran’s campaign team got their act together in the final week leading to less than a 2 point margin of victory over McDaniel. Though one must consider that Cochran’s extremely narrow victory was had by the votes of Democrats. Cochran had lost in the weeks prior to McDaniel but since neither secured over 50% of the vote a runoff was necessary, a runoff which non-Republicans could vote in.

Where Cochran’s margin of victory was minimal others weren’t such as Oklahoma Representative James Lankford who resoundingly defeated T.W. Shannon by over 25 points in a race to succeed retiring Senator Coburn. T.W. Shannon received the backing of numerous tea party groups while having the support of tea party favorite Senator Cruz. Elsewhere, incumbents cruised to victory over tea party opponents, several in races where both establishment and tea party groups had invested heavily in candidates.

So what does this all mean? Cantors loss was blown up into something it wasn’t. It was an aberration this year, not a trendsetter and most certainly not an indication of tea party dominance. Cantor acting as House Majority Leader is a national Republican and ambitious and in so much, he lost the support of his constituency. Furthermore his campaign was sloppy believing that victory was all but assured and buoyed by Cantor’s 2012 79 point victory of his tea party challenger then. Additionally several polls showed the complete opposite of what would transpire no doubt leading to overconfidence in Cantor team. Negative campaigning and political attacks on Brat also served to garner more support for the latter.

Despite all of this one can’t discount the tea party. Though small it has the power to make the difference in close elections. Despite losing in primaries, ideas of the tea party will find their way into establishment incumbents and candidates. Again though, the message is cast again that tea party candidates either can’t win or face tremendous hurdles in winning. In certain cases it is good for the party that tea party candidates didn’t prevail. In several races, their victory would have cast doubt on the potential for victory in November in seats that would otherwise be easily won by moderate Republicans. Furthermore, the GOP would be saved from pouring money into the campaigns of candidates whose eventual success would be in doubt.

Finally, I think one must take a step back and rebuke the talking point of the left that the tea party “radicals” control the GOP agenda. One needs to only look at the primaries that have been held this year to see that such an accusation or belief is false. I for one take joy in the left losing that talking point. Whatever the case, the Tuesday primaries showed that the moderates and establishment do and will continue to prevail. At the same time, they show that the tea party is still a force that has influence.

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