The Tea Party, left for dead by the mainstream media only a week ago, roared back to life on Tuesday with two big Republican primary victories in Nebraska and West Virginia.
All eyes now turn to Mississippi’s June 3 Republican U.S. Senate primary between establishment incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Tea Party-backed state senator Chris McDaniel as the next big test of the Tea Party’s ability to win elections.
In Nebraska, the Republican U.S. Senate primary race that many thought had tightened into a three way race turned into a romp for Tea Party-backed Ben Sasse, who easily won with 49 percent of the vote. Millionaire banker Sid Dinsdale finished a distant second with 22 percent, and Shane Osborn, who was backed by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and spurned by all the national Tea Party groups though supported by local Tea Party activists, finished a surprisingly non-competitive third with 21 percent of the vote.
In West Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, Tea Party-backed Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) coasted to victory in a crowded field of seven. Mooney won 36 percent of the vote, defeating second place finisher Ken Reed who trailed with 22 percent.
While next week’s Kentucky U.S. Senate primary is next up on the calendar, that race does not appear competitive. Incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leads challenger Matt Bevin by 32 points in the most recent poll.
In Mississippi, however, Cochran continues to stumble and recent polls show McDaniel in a virtual tie with him.
McDaniel also has the support of one major group that backed Sasse in Nebraska but did not endorse Bevin in Kentucky: Club for Growth. On Wednesday morning, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola sent out an email pointing to Mississippi as the next big Senate race where an establishment Republican may be defeated.
“Some highlights from Cochran’s exceptionally long tenure in office include: voting for the tax increase deal that raised taxes on 80% of Americans, voting to raise the debt limit by trillions of dollars, voting for the Fannie-Freddie Bailout, voting for billions in wasteful pork, and in favor of confirming liberal Supreme Court Justices,” Chocola wrote.