Tea Party Deja Vu

Right-wing fanatics may prevent the GOP from gaining the majority in the Senate.

Mitch McConnell
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The Palmetto State lawmaker faces at least two primary challengers, while McConnell has drawn a wealthy tea party challenger, Matt Bevin, with whom he is already exchanging attack ads on television. The GOP is almost certain to hold Graham's seat regardless of the outcome of the primary, but McConnell faces a credible Democrat, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who could benefit from the fact that Bevin's message resonates with hers: Both want to make their races referenda on the unpopular incumbent. So "while Alison's raising money and building a team crisscrossing the state, folks are going to be constantly reminded about what they don't like about Mitch McConnell," says the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's Justin Barasky.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

Between immigration, funding of the government and the rapidly approaching next debt-ceiling showdown, there will no doubt be a crying need for lawmakers who know how to, and are willing to, cut deals in the fall. To the extent that McConnell and Graham are able to fulfill that role – and to survive the furor on the right – it will go a long way toward breaking the fanatics' hammerlock on the GOP. And to the extent that the threat of primaries dissuades Republicans from actually governing, it could hurt the country.

Which brings us back to another Hippocratic maxim: "help, or at least, ... do no harm."

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