Four years after the tea party rocked the political world by ousting several prominent Republicans in Congress, the ultra-conservative movement finds itself with slimmer prospects as it moves into the new election season.
In Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primaries in Texas, the movement mostly settled for having an impact on key races rather than actually winning them. That may become a pattern in other states as primaries continue into the fall, many national GOP strategists believe.
Though the hard-right flank is still powerful in the conservative heartland, its candidates face a different environment than was present in 2010 and 2012, when they won a series of key contests, highlighted by the election of Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.
“In 2010, the ideological intensity was burning hot inside the GOP giving rise to the tea party,” said Greg Strimple, a Republican pollster and senior adviser to Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. “As the party has moved to meet their concerns, the tea party’s outsized role has diminished.”
Only one Republican tea party candidate is seen as having a real shot at a GOP Senate nomination this year: Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is challenging six-term Sen. Thad Cochran. No tea party challengers are expected to win in this year’s House races.
Four years ago, 28 of the 60 new Republicans elected to the House were backed by the tea party. Movement favorites won Senate seats in Utah, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Florida and Texas in the last two elections.