Yesterday, the Tea Party had its first big win of the season. Ben Sasse, who rallied with Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin while vying for the Republican Senate nomination in Nebraska, carried away a comfortable victory against two other contenders.
Ted Cruz took to Facebook to express his delight. "Ben Sasse's decisive victory in Nebraska tonight is a clear indication that the grassroots are rising up to make D.C. listen," he wrote. "They're rising up to take our country back."
But it seems that Sasse, the former president of Midlands University, may not be the kind of Tea Party candidate we're used to. Bickering with Mitch McConnell—the Senate minority leader generally considered to be the linchpin of the Republican establishment—is Sasse's best far-right credential. Otherwise, he looks shockingly mainstream.
After all, what kind of Tea Party candidate served as an advisor to the former Health and Human Services secretary during the early implementation of the Affordable Care Act?
Normally, someone like Sasse would have been ridden out of the Tea Party on a rail. But so far this year, he's the only viable candidate. For some reason, the nuttier Tea Party hopefuls keep losing.
Like Mike Bevin, the right-wing challenger to the aforementioned McConnell, who seems poised to suffer defeat in next week's Kentucky primary. In the past month, Bevin had to cope with the fallout from the release of an undercover video showing him speaking at a cockfighting rally. (Bevin says he thought he was speaking at a rally promoting states' rights. We've all made that mistake, right?)
Or the delightfully named J.D. Winteregg, an adjunct language professor of French who lost to House majority leader John Boehner in the Ohio primary last week. Winteregg's main claim to fame was an advertisement that spoofed Boehner's "electile dysfunction." A sample of the voiceover: "Your electile dysfunction? It could be a question of blood flow. Sometimes when a politician has been in D.C. too long, it goes to his head." The ad may not have cost him the race—it never seemed like he was going to win—but it did get Winteregg fired from his job.
All is not yet lost for our friends in the tricornered hats. There is always next week's Georgia Senate primary, which features a wide range of candidates with zany positions—including Paul Broun, the avowedly anti-evolution congressman.