Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tea leaves: Republican establishment still rules

By JONATHAN MARTIN | 2/3/10 11:38 PM EST

The widely anticipated civil war within the Republican Party is off to a decidedly dull start.

Defying predictions from last year, early evidence suggests that party leaders and even most grass-roots activists are more interested in winning elections than in ideological bloodletting.

A spate of recent developments points to two conclusions about the modern Republican Party that were in doubt as recently as a few months ago.

The first is that for all the talk about tea party insurgents and fulminating radio and cable commentators taking over, the GOP remains above all an establishment party.

GOP leaders easily swatted down a proposed “purity test” for candidates at last week’s Republican National Committee meeting — an indication that party officials are no more willing to turn over the keys to right-wing activists now than they were during the Bush years.

In Illinois, Rep. Mark Kirk is hardly a conservative heartthrob — and some activists are openly contemptuous of what they perceive as his moderation — but he easily won the Republican Senate primary there Tuesday night, against a more conservative, underfunded opponent, in part because he is seen as having the best chance to capture President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. FULL STORY

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