A won-loss sheet for the Tea Party Express
The meme of Tuesday's election has already been written: It was the year of the "tea parties." But just for fun, I looked at how one particular tea party group -- the Tea Party Express -- fared with its 112 endorsements. The answer: Almost all of the Republican incumbents who earned the TPE nod won reelection, but the GOP challengers it backed had much less success.
That's just one group, and I suspect that other tea party organizations could make the case that they inflicted more damage on Democratic incumbents. As far as the Express is concerned, though, it may have been more influential in the primaries than in the general election.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, the Express focused more on qualitative effects than quantitative ones. "The biggest victory might be the fact that the impact of the tea party movement was so strong that everyone - even many Democrats - started adopting the messaging and positions of the tea party movement," the group said. "There weren't all that many candidates running on the platform defending tax-spend-bailout policies or big government excess, such as ObamaCare."
As of noon Wednesday, 66 Republicans endorsed by the Express had won their races, and two were leading. Of that group, 41 were GOP incumbents who were either unopposed or who won easily. Ten more of those who won by large margins were candidates for open seats previously held by Republicans, and three were running for open seats previously held by Democrats. The remaining 12 defeated Democratic incumbents, four by 3 percentage points or less.
Thirty-nine other Republicans endorsed by the Express lost on Tuesday, including one incumbent (Charles Djou in Hawaii), three running for open seats previously held by Democrats, and one running for an open seat previously held by a Republican (that being Delaware's Mike Castle, who was defeated in the primary by Christine O'Donnell -- a tea party favorite who didn't go over so well with the rest of the state's voters).
The seven other Republicans endorsed by the Express were in races that were too close to call as of Wednesday morning. All but one, the Alaska Senate race, involved Democratic incumbents.
In sum: 56 Democratic incumbents targeted, 12 defeated (so far). That's not bad in comparison to historical rates of incumbents winning reelection, but it's not so impressive when compared to the rate at which Democrats were being defeated across the country this year.
Just as a point of reference, Sarah Palin targeted 20 seats held by Democrats who voted for the healthcare reform law, and Republicans took 18 of those. But all of those districts had been won by Palin and John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, so this year's Republican challengers were running on friendly turf.
-- Jon Healey
Photo: Sal Russo, chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, tracks election results at an election night party in Las Vegas, Nevada. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images