This ad should have been a tipoff to the Tea Party that their effect on the Republican Party wasn't all positive.
The Republican Party saw its collective poll numbers tank after they shutdown the government and got nothing for it. The drama here is in how badly the GOP got beat in the shutdown negotiations and in how quickly their numbers dropped, but really this is simply the most noticeable moment in a larger trend: the Republican Party has created a monster, and that monster is devouring the Republican Party.
The first sign of trouble was a non-witch in Delaware
The Tea Party takeover of 2010 was a massive electoral win for the Republican Party, but even then, there were signs that something was amiss. The Tea Party was flush with energy and Koch brother cash, but they lacked any strategic nuance. The Senate race in Delaware, which should have been an easy Republican pickup, turned into a lopsided win for the Democrats when well-liked centrist Republican Mike Castle was defeated in the primary by Tea Partier Christine O’Donnell, who will forever live on as the candidate who spent money to tell America that she is not a witch (see above).
The Tea Party cost the Republican Party very winnable Senate seats in Missouri and Indiana in 2012 by getting unelectable candidates nominated (see the video below to learn how Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin lost that election). They haven’t learned their lesson: Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and maybe Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) will face Tea Party primary challengers in 2014. Mississippi will stay Republican no matter who is on the ballot, but in the rest of those states, Democrats can dream of an unlikely pickup.
How to pass the purity test: don’t have a record
Those Republican Party Senators are not centrists. Nowhere close. Over time, however, their records have become something less than 100% pure on the conservatism scale, and so a fresh-faced Tea Partier with no record looks like a new exciting politician who will change how business is done in Washington.
The threat of a Tea Party challenger has changed the equation for almost everyone in the Republican Party. Given any political choice, the more conservative, anti-Obama option is safer. Give an inch to your right, and that inch might spawn a primary challenge and the end of your time in office. This is the monster the Republican Party has created. The ideological purity of the Tea Party is remarkable, and in some ways commendable, but they lack any sense of pragmatism, and they live deep within an echo chamber.
What angers the Tea Party more than anything is compromise, and this makes negotiating with them, even within the Republican Party, a near impossibility. The Republican Party cannot talk this monster down, it can only defend itself as best it can. Remember: Rick Santorum came surprisingly close to winning the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2012. If the monster grows more powerful in the coming years, the Republican Party will continue to lose winnable Senate races, and have no hope of winning a presidential election.