For those who have written-off the TEA party as having lost influence or worse yet, dead, will have their first real test coming up in a few weeks. Not long ago, Orrin Hatch, the long-time senator from Utah, was narrowly prevented from walking away with the GOP nomination when the TEA party prevented him from achieving 60 percent of the vote at the state's nominating convention. He will now face challenger Dan Liljenquist in a primary election this June. Orrin Hatch is a long-time Washington insider with moderate tendencies who once stated that he wished to punch conservative activists in the mouth and that the TEA party was filled with radical libertarians.
Similarly, Dick Lugar, the 36-year incumbent senator from Indiana, has been in the TEA party's cross-hairs for a long time. After a conference of 70 TEA party groups declared their unanimous opposition to his re-nomination, conservative Richard Mourdock declared his candidacy to take him on. The most recent indicators suggest that Lugar is at serious risk of losing in the May 8 primary. The Washington Post reports that some Lugar supporters may be bailing on him in the homestretch. Remember that Lugar is the guy that takes money from George Soros, refused to sign a letter supporting the lawsuit against Obamacare, voted to confirm both Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, and has a horrible record on gun rights.
Taking on and defeating entrenched incumbents is nothing new to the TEA party. If, as some claim, the TEA party's day has come and gone, well-funded establishment moderates like Sens. Lugar and Hatch should easily dispatch their insurgent opponents. On the other hand, if the coming electoral season will be another TEA party bloodbath (ala Fall 2010), these two primaries may well be the warning bells.
Closing note: why on this green Earth would Eric Cantor's group be propping up Dick Lugar? It seems like an incredibly stupid move, knowing that he is public enemy number one to the most active core constituency in the Republican Party. It seems that some, especially the current GOP leadership, just won't get the clue until we kick them all out of Washington.