Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press) Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

The train wreck continues in the conservative world populated by groups such as Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund. One of their top candidates, Milton Wolf, who is seeking to bump off popular conservative incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas, is trailing by a huge margin, 49 to 23 in the most recent poll. This is after he and the right-wing chorus made a huge to-do about Roberts not living in the state. (In fact, he travels home frequently and is a familiar face.)

In Kentucky, Matt Bevin trails Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell by 20 to 30 points according to a handful of public polls. Bevin has sat down with John Birchers, apparently misrepresented his education and attacked McConnell on the Troubled Assets Relief Program, although he had written a letter in favorite of it. Now Bevin is getting snared in his own hateful language.

Suffice it to say that when your spokesman has to clarify that you didn’t really mean to equate gay marriage with incest, you’ve got a problem. What he said what unintelligible: “So a person may want to define themselves as being married to one of their children so that they can can then in fact pass on certain things to that child financially and otherwise.” Umm, you can pass things on to your kids without marrying them, but whatever. He’s clearly determined to say just about anything to get attention and stir the base. It is not only grossly irresponsible to back such a figure, but it also sets up the entire party, as happened in 2012, to be labeled as intolerant and crazy.

These, mind you, are two of the top five candidates that outside groups have spent millions on to defeat entirely respectable conservatives. Do their donors sense they’ve been had? You have to question the political acumen of folks who cheered the shutdown and now propose such characters to replace Republicans who don’t go along with their shtick.

It should at least be obvious to incumbents that they have little to fear from the likes of Jim DeMint and FreedomWorks. Their idea of primarying a mainstream Republican seems to be to find any nutty radical and pour millions into his coffers, hoping to make up for the candidates’ lack of in-state support (and coherence). The elected Republicans can stop paying attention to them, as should the media who treat these challengers like serious foes to incumbents. It is a shame for the GOP that these groups don’t spend all that money and firepower attacking, say, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Kay Hagan (R-N.C.). If center-right Republicans can raise money and turn out a solid coalition of voters, then they can — and should — tell the kooks to take a hike.

UPDATE: Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler e-mails to deny that Heritage Action has endorsed anyone. In the above post I do not make that claim. Heritage Action’s leadership continually denounces GOP Senate and House leadership and incumbents who resist stunts like the shutdown. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Heritage Action, like SCF, FreedomWorks and other right-wing groups, is rooting for the insurgents in these races.