No more Ted Cruzes. That's the message that the Republican establishment seems to be taking from defeat in Virginia. The party's consultant class is blaming the Cruz wing for Cuccinelli's defeat.
"The Ted Cruz legislative strategy to defund Obamacare not only had no chance of success, but it masked, it covered up the incredibly bad news for Obama over the rollout," former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told Politico, adding that more weeks focused on the Obamacare rollout could have turned the tide for Republicans in close races.
Establishment figures like Barbour might sound like they're lamenting Cuccinelli's defeat, but in fact the party was largely responsible for it, according to Cucinelli's supporters.
The GOP had hoped that major defeats for ultra-conservative candidates would "prove" to the Tea Party that they were unelectable. To that end, the RNC and Republican Governor's Association stepped back from funding Cuccinelli, something that has infuriated his campaign and other conservatives nationwide. "National GOP abandoned Cuccinelli in last 5 weeks of campaign," tweeted conservative radio host Mark Levin.
But Cuccinelli's defeat was actually very narrow, especially given how wildly he was outspent by McAuliffe. (McAuliffe outspent him by $15 million.) He came within 2 points of beating McAuliffe. And so the result doesn't really prove Tea Party tactics to be wrong.
Nonetheless that's the message that establishment Republicans are taking away.
Paradoxically the GOP establishment is blaming conservatives for defeat in Virginia, an outcome the party establishment itself did everything to ensure.
When someone like Lindsay Graham says there ought to be a "post-mortem on Virginia" what he means is "my side is going to declare victory." And if centrist Republicans think they were right not to properly fund Cuccinelli, it sets a precedent for future elections.
"Leaders of the Republican establishment, alarmed by the emergence of far-right and often unpredictable Tea Party candidates, are pushing their party to rethink how it chooses nominees and advocating changes they say would result in the selection of less extreme contenders," the New York Times concludes.
In other words: the party is thinking twice about funding any more Ted Cruzes.
And business leaders are joining them. The mainstream Republican who won the Alabama congressional primary was the underdog until he got $200,000 from the Chamber of Commerce. He then went on to beat a Tea Party candidate who thought Obama was born in Kenya.