It’s not been an easy time of late for the right-wing conservative purity crowd. There are a bunch of signs suggesting its best days are behind it:
1. None of the wacky Senate challengers the group has put up addressed CPAC.
2. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the top target of groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund and Madison Project and the recipient of barbs from nearly every Beltway right-wing group — is crushing challenger Matt Bevin 61 percent to 23 percent.
3. Republicans are starting to catch on to the people Salena Zito identifies as “every political circus-barker able to buy a domain name that includes such key words as ‘freedom,’ ‘liberty,’ ‘warrior,’ ‘conservative’ or ‘tea party.'” Increasingly the jig seems to be up for the “dime-a-dozen outside groups that oversold their influence in Texas and in other states will continue to absorb great gobs of money in more races across the country, by accusing the ‘Washington establishment’ and others of conspiring against them and provoking their losses.”
4. Gadfly Milton Wolf is getting slammed in the local media for “the ‘clumsy’ and ‘offensive’ effort by Wolf’s campaign to demonize [Senator Pat] Roberts, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole and other influential Kansans … We’re talking about people who have been in the trenches for 20 years. . . .”
5. Perhaps the most “establishment candidate,” Rep Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) , not the insurgent right-wingers, drew the most support from Iowa Republicans for a presidential run.
7. Speaker of the House John Boehner is more popular than ever in his conference.
8. Republicans have figured out the tea party faction is not decisive in a presidential primary electorate. Henry Olsen explains that “the smallest, least influential group [is] the secular conservatives. . . . [Sen. Rand] Paul’s, [Sen. Marco] Rubio’s and Texas senator Ted Cruz’s hope must be that the secular, very conservative wing is in fact much larger in 2016 than it has been in the past.” He cautions that “successful Tea Party challenges have yet to occur in statewide races in large states that do not reliably vote Republican. . . [A] Tea Party candidate either needs to clearly deny any breathing space to a more evangelical candidate or he must emulate George W. Bush in 2000 in having enough appeal to other factions to gain enough strength to survive the early states.”
9. It is precisely for this reason that Rubio today is delivering a heavy policy speech outlining a raft of affirmative policies. He knows that to be viable you have to sound like you can and want to govern.
10. Heritage President Jim DeMint is denying he was a tea partier and is back to giving policy speeches: His CPAC talk closely hewed to noncontroversial subjects about civil society.