Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
The first news of Mini-Super-Tuesday Election Night was not surprising: Rand Paul—son of libertarian Ron and a Tea Party fave—won the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, whupping Secretary of State Trey Grayson, the candidate handpicked by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. Paul's victory will fuel two narratives: voters are really pissed off at establishment politicians and the Tea Partiers can indeed turn their cranky outrage into electoral juice. That second point is true at least in the small pool of Kentucky GOP primary voters. What remains a question is whether TP Fever infects independent voters and can affect general elections.
If so, the Democrats will not be happy. But on Tuesday night, the Ds were gleefully hailing Rand Paul's win as an embarrassing blow to McConnell. Before the results were final, Democratic Party chief Tim Kaine issued a statement:
Today, Kentucky Republicans selected Rand Paul as their Senate nominee, handing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a stunning loss. In a show of weakness for the Minority Leader, and in a race that symbolized the fight over the heart and soul of the Republican Party, Rand Paul overcame McConnell’s handpicked candidate by a large margin. Unfortunately for Republicans, ordinary Americans are unlikely to be receptive to extreme candidates like Rand Paul in the general election this November.
Rand Paul’s positions fail to resonate beyond the far-right Republican segment of the electorate that supported him tonight. Middle-class Kentucky voters want to elect a Senator with clear ideas about how to create jobs and opportunities for Kentucky families. But Rand Paul is more interested in talking about abolishing the Department of Education and disbanding the Federal Reserve than about supporting economic recovery.
As a result, Democrats are now in a better position to win Kentucky’s open Senate seat.
Perhaps. Is Rand Paul merely riding a Tea Party-only wave or one of larger dimension? Kaine—and everyone else—will have to wait until November to find out.
Also happening Tuesday night: Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter goes down to defeat in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Blanche Lincoln is headed to a runoff in Arkansas. That could be good news for tough Wall Street reform.