Tea Party Candidates Hard to Come by in 2014 Senate Races

Star candidates have yet to emerge in conservative circles for next election cycle.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham have worked to head off insurgent GOP challenges in 2014.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham have worked to ward off Tea Party rivals.

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In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was thought to be susceptible to an outside challenge, especially after the candidate he backed in a 2010 Senate primary lost to eventual statewide winner Rand Paul. But McConnell has made nice with Paul and even hired at least one of his staffers. The businessman recently thought to be a likely conservative challenger is reportedly having to work to convince local Tea Partiers that he should carry their mantle.

Woodard uses another example of how the landscape has changed from the height of the Tea Party era.

[DATA: Americans Lose Interest in Sarah Palin]

"Nikki Haley won the governor's race basically because of the endorsement of Governor Palin in 2010. You look at her running again and Sarah Palin could come down here and it wouldn't make any difference," he says.

Those intraparty agitators have either joined the formal party ranks or have faded back into the woodwork, he says.

"Before 2012 they were much more feisty, outspoken and aggressive but I think the Obama defeat of Republicans in so many ways has really crushed the spirits of these firebrands," he says. "They have either gone back and are not participating, or if they are participating they are doing it in the party machine more regularly. They are now in the tent."

That's not to say there's nothing left of the movement, though. Several political fundraising groups have been established to help anti-establishment candidates thrive in 2014, including the Senate Conservatives Fund and another led by the Tea Party Patriots. Calls to both groups were unreturned.

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