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GOP Primaries Show A Rout, But Did Tea Party Really Lose?

Although the Republican establishment ran the table with wins in major primary elections, can we really say the Tea Party will have no impact in 2014?
Posted at 10:09 AM, May 21, 2014

Huge wins for the Republican establishment and huge implications for the 2014 general elections. If you read the headlines, you're probably under the impression GOP voters trended moderate Tuesday night in the six states holding primaries.

​After all, major U.S. Senate primaries rejected Tea Party or heavily conservative candidates. To name just a few, Monica Wehby got the party's nomination in Oregon, Mike Simpson won in Idaho and the establishment candidate with the most attention, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, moved on to November. (Via The Oregonian, PoliticoThe New York Times)

As the Senate minority leader during a time when the Affordable Care Act and other Obama-sponsored legislation went through, some once considered McConnell vulnerable even before he faced off against a Democrat. (Via Fox News)

But after such a thorough trouncing, maybe the ultraconservatives' day in the sun has passed. After failing to retake both chambers of Congress and taking a beating in the 2012 presidential elections, Republican establishment candidates got a lot of money and support in these primaries.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: "It was a very different story in the 2010 and 2012 elections when the Tea Party candidates won a lot of high-profile contests, but come November, they lost out to the Democrats."

So the Tea Party's done, right? Great for state races, but much tougher to elect in the larger national arena where Republicans wanted to take back government control. Not so fast.

RON FOURNIER, NATIONAL JOURNAL SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST: "Are we really going to say that the establishment won, or has the Tea Party really won? I mean, I didn't see any moderates nominated yesterday. This is a party that has been moved further to the right by the Tea Party." (Via MSNBC)

In fact, The Daily Beast even argued in its headline the Tea Party lost battles but is winning the war by making the average Republican voter much more conservative the last several years.

Writer Ben Jacobs summed it up: "The extent to which Tea Party philosophy is now cemented into the GOP is now plain to see."

​While McConnell tries to defend his seat against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, Democrats make up far more Senate candidates up for re-election — 21 of the 36 seats up for grabs. (Via WAVE)

So after years of Tea Party advocates trumpeting the term RINO — "Republicans in name only" — perhaps it's time for the Tea Partiers themselves to get a new nickname. Maybe DINOs — "done in name only." Maybe not.