Cochran faces a June 3 primary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
A seven-week gauntlet of Republican Senate primaries kicking off next month will decide the fate of the tea party’s success this year.
If a Republican senator loses a primary this year, it will more than likely occur in a span of nominating contests premiering in one month. Incumbents got the boot thanks to tea-party-backed hopefuls in both 2010 and 2012, and those lesser known Republican nominees went on to both triumphs and failures.
In the third election cycle since the rise of the tea party, fundraising and organization remain significant hurdles for anti-establishment candidates. The outside groups helping to fuel many of the primary campaigns concede they are realistic about their slim chances against incumbents and mainstream Republican candidates.
Still, tea party organizers said they remain hopeful about picking off a few House seats and perhaps a couple Senate seats in their continued pursuit of increased congressional influence.
“Some of our guys could lose, many of them could lose. We understand that,” said Daniel Horowitz of the Madison Project, which recruits and supports conservative candidates. “We take calculated risks. We want to see a path, but it’s very much an uphill path in many of these races, especially if you’re going up against an incumbent and even some of the open seats where you’re starting out with a lot less money.”
But, Horowitz added, “on a large scale we have already won by forcing most of the incumbents to embrace, at least publicly, many of our policies.”
The races to watch begin May 6 in North Carolina, followed by Nebraska on May 13, Kentucky and Georgia on May 20, Mississippi on June 3 and South Carolina on June 10. South Dakota’s open seat has also invited a June 3 primary with similar dynamics, but it has drawn less outside interest than the others.