Here’s How the GOP Tamed the Tea Party Ahead of the Midterms

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The establishment wing of the Republican Party has begun to prune itself of its Tea Party fringe, and in doing so, set the stage for what the GOP hopes will be a landslide victory in the coming congressional midterm elections. Ballots cast in recent primaries prove the party is attempting to streamline its rhetoric, with the personal wealth of winning candidates and the support of business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce acting as decisive factors in determining primary results. The GOP’s goal now is avoiding the missteps made in 2010 and 2012, when Tea Party candidates such as Sharron Angle in Nevada and Todd Akin in Missouri lost winnable races for the Republicans with weak campaigns and other errors. And, with massive campaign spending and the endorsements of business interests guiding the debate, voters complied, picking candidates who have a better chance of winning in November.

Six high-stakes primary elections took place on Tuesday, making May 20 the biggest and most important political contest leading up to November’s congressional midterms. Registered Republican voters went to the polls to chose Senate candidates in Georgia, Kentucky, and Oregon; Pennsylvania Democrats voted for an opponent to run against current governor Tom Corbett; and Georgia voters cast their ballots in a number of primary races for open Congress seats.

It is a well-known fact that midterm elections — and especially their primaries — typically suffer from very low voter turnout. Not only do voters in midterm elections tend to be those most passionate about the political issues, those citizens who cast ballots are generally older, whiter, and more conservative than the broader population. The Economist has projected that this year’s midterm electorate will be as white as America was in 1983 when Ronald Reagan was president and as old as the the country will be in 2050. That means that about 77 percent of voters will be white and approximately 21 percent will be over the age of 65. While such a racial composition reflects the demographics of a past America, only around thirty of the country’s 435 congressional districts currently hover around the 77-percent-white mark. And of those thirty districts, most are held by Republicans. By comparison, few districts have high proportions of older voters. Only in eleven districts, concentrated in Arizona and Florida, are more than one-quarter of voters over the age of 65, and of those districts, only three have Democrat congressmen. These demographic realities of the 2014 midterm election is the reason that Republicans are generally expected to take control of the Senate. Yet, those demographic realities also mean Republican rhetoric will be under the political microscope.

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