Dems Counting 2010 Chickens with Egg on Their Face

Meanwhile, how some Democrats can spin the loss of Arlen Specter and the horrible showing by Blanche Lincoln into anything save a dire crisis is beyond me. Specter lost to netroots fave Rep. Joe Sestak, who seems a perfect fit for a Reid-led Senate. No doubt he will be a good little drone in the Democrats' Borg collective.

Specter was backed by the Democratic establishment from one end of the state to another, as well as a veritable who's who of Democrats in Washington. In the end, it appears that Pennsylvanians tired of Specter's mutable loyalties and arrogance, retiring the former Democrat, former Republican, and now former senator for good.

But that doesn't mitigate the worrisome notion for Democrats that with so many more seats to protect in the House, and nearly a dozen seats up for grabs in the Senate, the anti-incumbent, anti-establishment mood that was clearly demonstrated yesterday will yet roll over them, handing a smashing victory to Republicans.

And yet, there are two sides to this anti-Washington coin and Republicans have their own problems. In their case, however, they are problems the Democrats would dearly love to have. Figuring out a way to channel the anger, energy, enthusiasm, and frightening determination of ordinary citizens represented by the tea party movement is something the GOP has yet to figure out.

In Kentucky, tea party favorite Rand Paul breezed to a huge win over the establishment candidate Trey Grayson, who was supported by almost every major Republican in the state, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Paul, son of GOP gadfly Ron Paul, holds views that can more accurately be described as libertarian than conservative. He rode to victory via an impressive grassroots campaign that featured thousands of volunteers -- many from out of state -- who supplied the muscle, sinew, and cash that every insurgency needs. He made it look too easy.

It won't be easy to convince the tea party movement that Republicans have changed their stripes and are now four-square in support of smaller government and fiscal responsibility. In fact, Republicans may not have to. The alternatives the Democrats are pushing are even worse. Perhaps this will not mean a formal or organized fusion between the party and the activists in many districts. But in competitive races, whatever electoral activities tea partiers participate in can be chalked up as a plus for the Republican. In short, the activists may supply the margin of victory in close contests.

Still, as John Harris and Jim Vandehei point out in Politico, the tea party movement is cause for much worry in both parties:

The tea party's defeat of Grayson suggests a new found ability to mobilize effectively by a movement that previously had been more like an anti-government, anti-Obama primal scream. This is scary to Democrats because it's harnessing a sort of mirror image of the force that got Obama elected, and scary to Republicans because of its willingness to be very un-Republican, to throw off the tradition of electoral deference in the GOP that has tended to squelch dissent.

Democrats have their own headaches to deal with when it comes to their base, as evidenced not only by Specter's loss but also the deep trouble in which Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln finds herself. Bleeding support since the beginning of the year due to her maneuvering on health care reform, Lincoln didn't come close to the 50% threshold needed to win the primary outright and now must face SEIU- and MoveOn.org-backed Bill Halter in a runoff election in three weeks.

Halter has the cash and the momentum, as well as the enthusiastic support of the netroots who view Lincoln as a Republican-lite. This is extremely bad news for the Democrats who may end up with a candidate perfectly suited to run in New York or California, but who would make Arkansas voters run into the waiting arms of the GOP choice Rep. John Boozman. Whether in the name of anti-incumbency or ideological purity, the chances of a Democratic hold in Arkansas would take a huge hit if Lincoln can't pull off a victory in the runoff election.

So the major question today as we look at the results from last night: why are many Democrats gloating over the results in PA-12 when all other results are still pointing to a disaster in November?