North Carolina's Senate Primary Ended Well For The Republican Establishment — And Badly For The Tea Party

The biggest winner in Tuesday’s Congressional primaries in North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana was the GOP establishment, which effectively beat back a Tea Party challenger and made its quest for control of the Senate a bit easier. A win by Tea Party candidate Greg Brannon in North Carolina's Republican Senate primary would have significantly diminished the GOP’s chances at winning back the Senate in November. But Brannon lost, and with Thom Tillis as their nominee, Republicans have a much better chance at unseating first-term Democrat Kay Hagan in five months.

Control of the Senate could very well come down to North Carolina, and the race between Brannon and Tillis was a microcosm of the broader identity crisis raging within the GOP. Tillis is the state Speaker of the House, was endorsed by the likes of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, and received backing from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads’ PAC, which has devoted itself to supporting electable Republicans over their far-right challengers. Brannon is more conservative, had less money, polled worse against Hagan and was endorsed by the likes of Rand Paul.

In the end, Tillis defeated Brannon by a comfortable (some might say enormous) margin, netting 45 percent of the vote to Brannon’s 27. Elsewhere in the state, Clay Aiken won the Democratic primary for the state’s second congressional seat, and over in Ohio, House Speaker John Boehner won his primary in which everybody more or less knew was going to happen.

As Bustle reported, the GOP avoided a mistake they’ve been making for years by nominating Tillis instead of Brannon:

After all, the GOP in recent elections have shot themselves in the foot by enforcing strict conservative purity in their primaries, pushing general-election candidates further and further to the right to the point that mainstream appeal is nearly impossible. After all, who could forget the likes of Sharron Angle of Nevada, Todd Akin of Missouri, or Joe Miller of Alaska (and they might make that last mistake twice)? Far-right Tea Party devotees, thrust into the spotlight of the national stage, who all crumbled in spectacular fashion and cost their party easily winnable seats.

Democrats are going to have to significantly up their game if they want to protect Hagan — and, perhaps, their grasp on the Senate itself.