In Which the Tea Party Outdoes Progressives

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One political dynamic that’s emerging this election season is the strength of the right and the weakness of the left.

While the Tea Party appears, in many ways, to be steering the ship of the Republican Party, on the other end of the spectrum, progressives may feel like their banging their heads against the wall.

Just take a look at the campaigns of Democratic House members who voted against health care reform. Alex Isenstadt had a nice catch in Politico yesterday reporting on the 30 Democrats who voted against the Affordable Care Act and are running for re-election. All have won their primaries, despite scattered efforts by the left to knock them off the ballot.

Isenstadt reports that primary challengers in these races – motivated by support from unions and party activists – were beat down by the usual forces of establishment politics.

In many cases, challengers suffered from a lack of cash and found themselves badly outgunned. Utah Rep. Jim Matheson spent over $1 million to fend off retired teacher and activist Claudia Wright, who spent a little over $32,000. Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren plowed more than $920,000 into his primary campaign – much of it on TV ads highlighting his pro-gun record – to drown out state Sen. Jim Wilson, who dispensed a meager $18,000. Georgia Rep. John Barrow unleashed $713,000 for his rematch against former state Sen. Regina Thomas, who spent just $35,000. Lynch spent $870,000 to D’Alessandro’s $158,000.


But many no–voting Democrats never even faced the prospect of being denied re-nomination by angry progressives, largely because of the myriad impediments against a successful challenge—such as tight filing deadlines, daunting ballot requirements, and reluctance to take on cash-flush incumbents.

What’s striking is that the usual impediments to beating establishment incumbents isn’t holding all the far-right candidates back, as evidenced most recently by Christine O’Donnell’s upset victory against establishment favorite Mike Castle in Delaware.

But while progressives may feel frustrated at their inability to shake things up – Politico also reports Dems are spending three times as much touting anti-health reform ads as they are on pro-health reform ads – the end result is a more cohesive party, unfettered by the very public intra-party squabbling we’re now seeing among Republicans. Here’s a fun mashup of Karl Rove zig-zagging, lambasting O’Donnell the night of her victory and then and backing her the day after.