Last night's GOP Senate primary in North Carolina was billed as a surrogate battle in the Republican Civil War between the establishment and grassroots. But it ended up being more of a surrender than a battle. And since establishment candidate Thom Tillis easily trounced his two grassroots conservative opponents, it would be easy to declare today that the tea party is toast.
The truth is probably more complicated than that. In fact, if the tea party didn't show up, or put up much of a fight, it might be because they already won the war. I'll let The Atlantic's Molly Ball explain:
[I]f Tillis represented the Republican establishment — something he denies, of course; it is not a label anyone embraces — he also represents the party's new, post-Tea Party mainstream. He was endorsed by National Right to Life and the National Rifle Association. As House speaker during a time when Republicans took over North Carolina's government for the first time since 1896, he oversaw a dramatic slate of rightward policies, from tax cuts to voter ID, that he terms a "conservative revolution."
It was hard for opponents to paint Tillis as a liberal when actual liberals were picketing his initiatives on the steps of the statehouse in Raleigh on a regular basis. If this race is any indication, the "Republican civil war" storyline so beloved of pundits in recent years may have to be retired... [The Atlantic]
The theory goes like this: In the beginning, the GOP establishment had grown old and fat and corrupt, and the tea party bench was full of young and talented and pure candidates. And so, when quality candidates like former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio and former Rep. and Club for Growth head Pat Toomey challenged moderate GOP candidates like then-Gov. Charlie Crist (Fla.) and then-Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) — both of whom later became Democrats — it was like picking low-hanging fruit.
But there are only so many Rubios and Toomeys (and only so many Crists and Specters). So it gets increasingly harder to replicate this success. The well of quality tea party candidates goes dry, and eventually, you're scraping the bottom. What's more, the early victories send a message to the old guard that they'd better clean up their act.
And so, the tea party message gets co-opted by the establishment — which, for tea party conservatives, ought to be cause for celebration; incumbents who want to survive either get religion, or get ousted.
If the tea party is having a bad year, it's only because they are a victim of their own success. Matt K. Lewis
When actor Richard Dreyfuss was spotted attending a Ted Cruz campaign event, the blowback was pretty fierce. People decided that Dreyfuss, "a beloved actor, needed to be kicked out of Hollywood," Megyn Kelly summarized at the beginning of an interview with Dreyfuss and his son Harry on Thursday's Kelly File. Harry Dreyfuss had written an online post slamming his father's online critics, accusing them of "attacking my dad for his curiosity," he explained. Then Kelly turned to the actor himself.
Dreyfuss comes from a long line of socialists, Kelly said. "Were you surprised by the backlash?" No, Dreyfuss said, explaining that his other son, Ben Dreyfuss, an editor at Mother Jones, "always warned me never to read comments on the internet, because they were from people who were dropped on their head." He went to the Cruz event out of curiosity, Dreyfuss said, because he wanted to "hear whether or not there'd be a difference between what I was hearing through the TV camera and live. And what was disappointing was that there was no difference. They sounded equally, kind of, silly."
Kelly said that Dreyfuss sounded like Glenn Beck, whom he also met, because they both love the Constitution. That prompted a civics lesson from Dreyfuss, who runs a nonprofit dedicated to raising civic awareness in high schoolers and younger. "If anyone tells me that America is exceptional, my response is, if you don't defend that statement and prove it, I'll hit you right in the mouth," he said. "Because people don't think that it needs defending, and it does." Watch below. Peter Weber
A man who injured four people in a machete attack inside a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant Thursday evening was shot and killed by police following a vehicle pursuit.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 12, 2016
Columbus Police Sgt. Rich Weiner said the assailant had a conversation with an employee of Nazareth Restaurant and Deli, then came back 30 minutes later and started attacking a couple in a booth. "Some of the patrons there started throwing chairs at him, just trying to get him out of there," Weiner told The Associated Press. "There was no rhyme or reason as to who he was going after."
The man eventually ran out of the restaurant and led police on a short chase. After he pulled over and got out of his car, officers tried to use a stun gun against him, but were unsuccessful. The man had the machete and another knife in his hand, and after he lunged across his car's hood at officers, he was shot and killed. The man's name has not been released, and the victims are all expected to recover. So far, there's no motive, and Weiner said "there's nothing that leads us to believe that this is anything but a random attack." Catherine Garcia
One message Ted Cruz no longer approves of is a campaign ad that featured a softcore porn actress.
Prior to appearing in Cruz's "Conservatives Anonymous" commercial targeting Marco Rubio, Amy Lindsay had parts in Erotic Confessions, Carnal Wishes, Secrets of a Chambermaid, and Insatiable Desires. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Lindsay, a self-described conservative Christian and Republican, said she's never been in any XXX films, and thought everyone involved in the commercial knew about her previous credits. Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler told BuzzFeed News Lindsay went to an open casting call and was "not vetted by the production company" after getting the job. "Had the campaign known of her full filmography, we obviously would not have let her appear in the ad," he said.
"Conservatives Anonymous" is being yanked from the air, he said, and will be replaced with another commercial. As for Lindsay, she told BuzzFeed News she was trying to decide if she wanted to support Cruz or Donald Trump, but later tweeted she was "extremely disappointed" by the Cruz campaign pulling the ad. Catherine Garcia
PBS hosted a spirited, earnest, mostly break-free Democratic debate in Milwaukee on Thursday night, and its post-debate analysis by Hari Sreenivasan was similarly different from the post-game chatter we've seen on cable news and network TV. When they joined Sreenivasan, liberal columnist Mark Shields and conservative columnist David Brooks agreed that Hillary Clinton started out the debate stronger and Bernie Sanders ended the night fighting on his home turf.
Clinton's "strategy was pretty simple, it struck me," Shields said. "She ran as Hillary Obama. She hugged the president, she wouldn't let any daylight between them, and accused Bernie of infidelity." Brooks laughed, quipping, "That's good, coming from a Clinton." He argued that Clinton's "Obama moment is the moment that will go viral, when she dropped the Obama bomb" on Sanders. But Sanders ended the night in good shape, he said, in part because he has a "core narrative" and so these debates are "always sort of on his turf," but also because "he's unhindered by budgetary reality," while Clinton "limits herself to what is practically possible."
Brooks returned to that theme later. "I think the question for Sanders is, is there a point where the Democratic voters begin to say, 'Wait, is any of this actually going to happen?'" he said. "Are people going to think, 'Is any of this ever going to happen?' Because it seems highly implausible unless the Democrats sweep everything.... Whether people get that, sort of, into the wonkery of it, or whether they just want to express some anger, is really the core question between these two." Watch the earnest Shields-Brook wonkery below. Peter Weber
On Thursday, a damaged gas well in Porter Ranch, California, finally stopped leaking, four months after it was first discovered that the well was spewing out natural gas.
Crews drilled down almost 8,500 feet to pierce the casing, and the well was then injected with a mud-like compound. Crews could begin pumping concrete into it as early as Friday. The leak was found on Oct. 23, and at its peak in November, the well was releasing close to 60,000 kilograms of methane an hour into the atmosphere, the Los Angeles Times reports. Residents complained about the smell, saying it permeated their furniture and carpets, and nearly 5,000 households moved out of Porter Ranch due to health concerns. The leak has cost $300 million, and there are 67 pending lawsuits against Southern California Gas Co. Catherine Garcia
Kristen Wiig is a legitimate movie star, so she could go on The Tonight Show as herself, but she appears to prefer to show up in character. On Thursday, she was Peyton Manning, and she apparently didn't read the Denver Broncos quarterback's Wikipedia page before donning his uniform. That made for much better TV, as it turns out, with Wiig improvising her way around Jimmy Fallon's questions. Such as: "Favorite pregame meal?" "French fries and toast." Who's to say she's wrong on that one? Watch Wiig impersonate Manning, and even throw a football, below. Peter Weber
The focus of Bernie Sanders' newest ad isn't on the presidential candidate, but on one of his supporters: Erica Garner.
Her father, Eric Garner, died in Staten Island in July 2014 after some NYPD officers arresting him put him in a chokehold. The takedown was caught on camera, propelling the story to the world stage, and in the ad, Erica Garner talks about her new life as an activist. "No one gets to see their parent's last moments, and I was able to see my dad die on national TV," she said. "They don't know what they took from us. He wasn't just somebody that no one cared for, no one loved him. He was loved dearly."
Garner said she is supporting Sanders because "there's no other person speaking about this. People are dying. This is real, this is not TV. We need a president that's going to talk about it." In her view, Sanders is a "protester" just like she is, and "not scared to go up against the criminal justice system." Watch the ad below. Catherine Garcia