January 25, 2013

This afternoon’s campaign news is that vastly unpopular Alaska politician Joe Miller, last seen beating Lisa Murkowski in a GOP primary only to lose to her in the general election anyway, is preparing to run against vulnerable Democratic first-term incumbent Mark Begich.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) (Melina Mara/ The Washington Post)
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) (Melina Mara/ The Washington Post)

That follows this morning’s campaign news that not-conservative-enough Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring, perhaps in part because of a potential tea party challenge.

We’ve been through this before for at least two cycles now, but it’s worth repeating: There’s a large faction within the Republican Party which would rather have 30 ideally perfect senators — by their standards — than have 60 pretty good ones. And that fact is the context for almost everything that happens in the Senate (and, since the same applies elsewhere, to much else in U.S. politics). It’s not just about the high profile joke candidates; it’s not just about retirements and actual primary challenges. Or, to be fair, the purist candidates who have won. It’s (also) about all the potentially strong candidates who decide not to run; it’s about all the Republicans currently in office who spend most of their time worrying about completely nutty challenges and censoring their own votes — and rhetoric — accordingly.

We may see that fade out at some point in the future. But looking at the early indications for 2014, it looks as if not yet.