If tea party candidate Richard Mourdock's primary smackdown against 30-year Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar wasn't proof enough, Ted Cruz's victory over Texas golden-boy Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Tuesday proves the Tea Party wave is rolling its way to the United States Senate.
Cruz, who launched his campaign with two percent of support, defeated Dewhurst by 13 points Tuesday, a remarkable number considering he lost in the May primary by 10 percent. Cruz did well enough in the primary, however to keep Dewhurst from earning the 50 percent he needed to go straight to the general election, forcing him into a run-off. [Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.]
The former state solicitor general has never held elected office, but Cruz's grassroots approach to the campaign trail together with his A-list supporters like former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint transformed the political unknown into a tea party darling.
House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy says in the November election, the Senate should expect the same kind conventional ousting similar to that of the House in 2010 when 87 budget hawk Republican freshman took control.
"The Senate is like the country club and the House is like stopping at the truck stop for breakfast," McCarthy says. "We are a microcosm of society, and we reflect it first. The Senate just hasn't had the opportunity to reflect it yet."
McCarthy says senators elected in 2006 during the Democratic sweep are about to be voted out with constituents favoring outsider candidates. McCarthy says, however, middle-of-the-road Republicans aren't safe either.
"People are tired of the gimmicks of the past," McCarthy says. "[There] is an anger on both parties that they don't want business as usual."
Next up on the docket is Missouri's contentious Republican primary, where three conservatives are vying for tea party votes. Wisconsin could prove another historic upset as Republican outsiders go up against the state's former governor Tommy Thompson in mid-August. And Arizona is the anti-establishment's last shot of the season as Will Cardon, a self-financed businessman, throws millions into a primary to defeat Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake.
Kyle Kondick, a congressional researcher at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, isn't hedging his bets on Republicans winning the Senate in a landslide, but he says the Tea Party is slowly infiltrating the body without a doubt.
"The tea party hasn't gone away," Kondick says. "There is an anti-establishment feeling in the country, a preference for outsiders who have less connection to government."
Chris Chocola, the president of Club for Growth, which financially backs conservative candidates like Cruz, says Republicans like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey already carry the flag of fiscal conservatism, but says this year's elections could put tea party power at critical mass in the Senate.
"It doesn't take a whole lot of them in the Senate to change the culture because of the rules," Chocola says. "The type of people who are running and winning are not status quo candidates."
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