The conventional wisdom -- repeated by some in the comments of this blog -- says the answer is yes. Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, and Ken Buck were all Tea Party-backed conservatives who lost (or more precisely in Buck's case, appear to have lost) yesterday. But I don't think it's that simple.
Let's stipulate that this criticism is correct in the case of O'Donnell. Mike Castle was almost as certain to win that Delaware Senate seat as O'Donnell was to lose it. But in most other cases, it is not clear the establishment-backed candidate would have fared any better. Remember: they lost because they were extraordinarily bad candidates in the primary.
In Nevada, Sue Lowden had beaten back criticisms of her conservative credentials from Danny Tarakanian. It wasn't until her "chickens for check-ups" gaffe and the Reid campaign's efforts to drive up her negatives that she fell far enough to allow Sue Lowden to overtake her. None of this should have inspired much confidence in her abilities as a general election candidate. Similarly, it was not as if Gale Norton lit the world on fire during the primary.
The Tea Party-beaten Republican Senate candidate who might have fared the best in a general election was Trey Grayson. But he turned out to be the one whose nomination was least needed. Rand Paul was able to win handily in his own right, perhaps with an assist from Jack Conway's desperate Aqua Buddha ad.
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