Voters converted the Tea Party's energy into real political power on Tuesday, electing a host of Tea Party-supported candidates to take the grassroots movement's demand for fiscal restraint to Washington. Rand Paul, Kentucky's senator-elect, called his decisive win — along with other Tea Party victories around the country — evidence of a "Tea Party tidal wave." But only 13 of the 38 Tea Party candidates endorsed by Sarah Palin won, and several protester favorites — including Ken Buck in Colorado, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware — lost Senate races that pollsters say moderate Republicans would have won. Is Paul overplaying the Tea Party's success story? (Watch a CBS discussion about the Tea Party wins)
The Tea Party swept the doubters — and Democrats — aside: Critics tried to dismiss Tea Partiers as "violent, angry" nutjobs, says J.P. Freire at the Washington Examiner, but this vote should bury those stereotypes forever. Tea Partiers won, and "won extravagantly." This proves their movement wasn't "whipped up by radio personalities," but inspired by the widespread belief that our government is "spinning out of control" and it's time to rein it in.
"'Violent,' 'angry,' 'fear-mongering' Tea Party narrative debunked in one night"
The Tea Party did the GOP more harm than good: Tea Party candidates had their successes, says Justin Wolfers at The New York Times' Freakonomics blog, but "just about any Republican" could have won Rand Paul's seat in Kentucky or Marco Rubio's in Florida. And "weak" Tea Party candidates almost certainly cost the GOP Senate seats they should have won in Delaware, Colorado, and Nevada. Those losses cost Republicans control of the Senate.
"Did the Tea Party help or hurt the Republicans?"
This wave goes beyond putting Tea Partiers into office: Sure, some Tea Partiers lost, says Dave Weigel at Slate, but there's no telling how many GOP House candidates they saved by firing up the base. And the Tea Party also furthered the cause of fiscal conservatives by pushing "Republicans in Name Only" further to the right, and putting them on notice that they're finished if they ever back a tax hike. "This ripples far beyond the races the Tea Party wins."
"Bennet wins, Murkowski leads, and the flaw of the 'Tea Party cost GOP the Senate' meme"