After Tea Party "insurgents" capped off a string of primary victories by ousting Delaware moderate Mike Castle in favor of Christine O'Donnell, the GOP establishment was reeling (see Karl Rove's baffling initial response to O'Donnell's victory). But as the dust settled, pundits are seeing encouraging signs for moderate Republicans. Perhaps the most visible symbol of the "middle striking back" is ousted Alaska incumbent Lisa Murkowski usurping the role of challenger with a planned write-in campaign as a last-ditch effort to save her Senate seat. Elsewhere, prominent moderates Colin Powell and Michael Bloomberg have both made highly visible statements contending that it's time for moderate GOPers to, in the words of Powell, "come out." Political observers parse the chances of a moderate mini-revival before election day:
The Middle Strikes Back The editors at MSNBC's First Read find four reasons to think that moderates will push back against the Tea Party activists: 1) Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign, which will "complicate" the state for Republicans. 2) Colin Powell contending on Meet the Press that the Tea Party hasn't been good about actually addressing the issues. 3) Senator Susan Collins decrying Senator DeMint's apparent support for a non-incumbent Republican candidate. 4) New York Mayor Bloomberg has largely dismissed the Tea Party and is looking actively to support "centrist Democrats and Republicans."
- Tea Party Is 'Furious' at Lisa Murkowski, observes Ken Rudin at NPR, but incensed Tea Partiers are forgetting the salient point that, "Delaware's Christine O'Donnell did the very same thing after she lost the Republican primary for the Senate in 2006: she ran against the GOP nominee as a write-in candidate." Although O'Donnell eventually lost, at the time she felt that "primary results were not necessarily the final say."
- Moderates Will Be a Key Vote "Though the number of moderates may be small, with the partisan margins certain to be much tighter in the Senate next year no matter which party is in control, centrists will still be able to wield influence given the importance of every individual vote," report David Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse at The New York Times. But, "given the rising influence of the Tea Party, the votes of all Republicans are likely to be scrutinized and come under Tea Party fire if lawmakers stray."
- Bloomberg Dismisses Tea Party The New York mayor "described the Tea Party movement as a fad, comparing it to the short-lived burst of support for Ross Perot in 1992. The mayor suggested that the fury it had unleashed was not a foundation for leadership," writes The New York Times' Michael Barbaro. Bloomberg was quoted by the Times as stating about the Tea Party that, "Anger, however, is not a government strategy...It’s not a way to govern."
- Why Don't Moderates Become 'Independent'? Faced with the "unappealing" choice of tailoring their platforms to the Tea Partiers' whims or losing like Castle or Murkowski in the primaries, it might be a good idea for GOP moderate incumbents Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to label themselves "independent" when they come up for re-election, muses John A. Farrell at U.S. News and World Report:
Snowe and Collins can still organize with the Senate Republicans and call themselves Independent-Republican, if need be, to reassure the yachting class Down East. But if there were two or three Independent New Englanders (Hi Joe! Hi Scott!), willing to throw their votes as a bloc to the side that makes the best offer, they might not just have a greater say in policy, but delicious clout when control of the Senate is up for grabs.