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In Nevada, tea party favorite Sharron Angle turned out to be a horrendous candidate as well, though it isnít clear that any of the other hopefuls in the GOP primary would have beaten Reid.
Early in the cycle, veteran Republican officeholders and strategists generally argued that tea party activists would be an asset to the party as long as they didnít come to define the GOP, and that assessment seems correct.
When Ken Buck and Christine OíDonnell became the Republican Senate nominees in Colorado and Delaware, they became the issue in their races, overshadowing the GOPís advantage in both contests. And the increasingly apparent defeat of Joe Miller (R) to the write-in bid of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) in Alaska is an obvious embarrassment for the tea party movement.
Elsewhere, especially in lower profile House contests and in strongly conservative (or anti-Obama) districts or states, tea party nominees rode the GOP wave. So the movement was an asset to Republicans as long as it played a secondary role in campaigns.
Of course, most tea party activists cared less about winning races than they did about ideological purity and selected candidates who were angry with the establishment. But thatís a different column.
Finally, thanks to multiple readers who noted that, contrary to an observation in one of my recent columns, newly elected GOP Reps. Tim Scott (S.C.) and Allen West (Fla.) wonít be the first duo of black Republicans to serve together in the House in 100 years. J.C. Watts (Okla.) and Gary Franks (Conn.) served together for one term in the mid-1990s.
Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.