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November 06, 2013 5:03 PM Alabama Shakes

By Ed Kilgore

At Ten Miles Square, my old buddy Will Marshall of the Progressive Policy Institute offers his plenary take on what happened yesterday: he thinks it was pretty much a rout of the Tea Folk. Check it out.

I do want to comment (since I only mentioned it in passing last night) about the GOP runoff in AL-1. I don’t know that I entirely agree with Will that losing this primary was a really bad sign for the Tea Party. It was, more accurately, a sign that there are limits, even in Alabama, to the trend towards ever more radical tactics and rhetoric in Republican politics.

But the limits aren’t all that tight. Dean Young lost to a rival who not only had tons of money and institutional backing; he also had a sackful of endorsements from hard-core conservatives and had positioned himself only a bit to the left of Jimmy Dean Sausage.

On the latest Tea Party litmus test, the willingness to vote against the settlement that reopened the federal government and averted a debt default, winner Bradley Byrne passes with flying colors. Even a post at RedState endorsing Young conceded that Byrne would have probably stood with Ted Cruz in the “defund Obamacare” crusade when push came to shove. If we can’t call Byrne a Tea Guy, he’s at least a Lite Tea Guy.

We sometimes forget that the purpose of “RINO purge” primary challenges by the hard right isn’t just to replace more reasonable Republicans: it’s also to intimidate them. So I’m not so sure other Republicans are going to look at Byrne’s struggle to beat a walking oppo research file, after enjoying every tangible advantage on earth, and say it’s time to pour the Tea down the drain.

BTW, given the use of their name in the headline, maybe it’s time to post an appropriate video from that fine band. Since we’re talking about the endless zest of the Tea Folk for primary challenges, let’s go with the Shakes’ great cover of Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times?”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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