The Tea Party movement continues to baffle the self-styled political experts who dominate media coverage. Candidates once written off as cranks with no chance of winning triumphed in Tuesday's primaries. In particular, the success of principled candidates in Delaware and New York will force establishment types to face an inconvenient Obama-era truth. Liberal ideology has failed, and the public knows it.
In the clearest contest, Delaware Tea Party darling Christine O'Donnell won a five-point victory over Rep. Michael N. Castle for the Republican Senate nomination. Mr. Castle is a well-known quantity, a liberal first elected to the state legislature in 1966 who has served in a number of statewide offices, including governor and congressman.
The distinction between the Tea Party and establishment candidates is not always as clear. New York Republicans strongly preferred businessman Carl Paladino over former Rep. Rick Lazio for the right to challenge Democratic state Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo for the governor's office in November. Mr. Lazio's lifetime rating of 65 percent from the American Conservative Union is more impressive than Mr. Castle's, whose 2008 score dipped to just 28. Mr. Paladino, however, ran as an unabashed conservative who would slash both spending and taxes.
Those who confidently predicted candidates like Miss O'Donnell and Mr. Paladino would never win their primaries must now shift their talking points to assure us that they are "too extreme" to win the general election. Recent history proves this to be wishful thinking. The same pundits told us that Republican Chris Christie's uncompromising message of fiscal responsibility would never work in the Democratic stronghold of New Jersey, where he was elected governor anyway. Few thought Scott Brown - a moderate with Tea Party backing - could win a Senate seat in Massachusetts that has not held a Republican in three decades.
Tuesday's primary voters realized that November victories for Miss O'Donnell and Mr. Paladino are possible, but not assured. Much will come down to the performance of the individual candidates and full backing by Republican Party insiders who have a hard time concealing their disappointment at the result. The Tea Party appeals to those who see the "run to the center" game as proof that a candidate considers winning to be the only objective. Tuesday's voters were willing to take a stand and risk a loss on principled grounds instead of accepting candidates more likely to go along with the tax-and-spend agenda of the left.
The last thing the nation needs is another set of elected squishes willing to accept billions in new "stimulus" projects while public debt swells beyond $13.4 trillion. As families across the country have had to face their own personal financial crises, they know there is only one true cure for runaway debt: Shred the credit cards and stop spending. Tea Party candidates advocating equivalent fiscal responsibility in the statehouse and in Congress will find that their message resonates with more people than empty phrases read from a teleprompter promising "change." That's why Tea Party candidates can win in any of the 50 states in November.
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