In short: The tea party may be losing popularity, but its power inside the Republican party appears to be growing.I guess that depends on the definition of the tea party. Does it includes the Club for Growth, which spent $1.5 million attacking Lugar, funded by two investment bankers using the Citizen's United ruling to help buy the election? Does it include the NRA, which spent half a million? What about Dick Armey's FreedomWorks? They spent $100,000. Or how about the nearly $20,000 that Murdoch raised from bank PACs?
In all, big money corporate PACs and Super PACs spent $3 million boosting the newly minted GOP nominee, Richard Mourdock. And he wasn't exactly some insurgent outsider either—he was a twice-elected state treasurer. Heck, Indiana's political establishment was lining up behind Mourdock over a year ago.
There's no doubt that Mourdock was a darling of the tea party, but that's nowhere near enough these days to get one of their candidates anywhere.
The tea party presence was non-existent at the presidential level, otherwise we'd have Michele Bachmann as the nominee. In Utah, the tea party gunned hard for Sen. Orrin Hatch, yet are getting very little traction. In Indiana itself, last night, the tea party's favorite House candidates (like Travis Hankins and Kristi Risk) all lost.
"The headline isn't going to be, 'Tea party candidate to take on Dick Lugar;' it's going to be, 'GOP grassroots dumps Lugar,'" Mourdock said. "There is tremendous unrest and tremendous dissatisfaction, and that's what got me in this race."Without big outside money, the tea party is helpless to have an impact. As always, it's the guys who write the six- and seven-figure checks who call the shots.