Mark Davis

But the lesson is: not every Tea Party candidate brings the brilliance, skill and message discipline of Ted Cruz. Please remember that America’s strongest Tea Party icon did not take out an entrenched incumbent to reach the Senate. He captured an open seat, and thus the hearts of conservatives tired of decades of Republican meekness. If the Tea Party phenomenon is at such an ebb, why is its biggest star the most powerful force in Washington?

When Tea Party candidates lose, sometimes it’s due to flaws other than ideology. Some are not the crispest campaigners. Some do not have the sharpest staffs. Sometimes they say wacky things and hang themselves.

None of those events constitute a narrative of a Tea Party in decline.

FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe has it precisely right: “Everybody runs like a Tea Party candidate now,” he observed. “Everybody is running against Obamacare and against overspending in Washington. It wasn’t always like that with the Republican establishment. I don’t even recognize McConnell from where he was a few years ago.”

Precisely. That is the power of the Tea Party, this movement supposedly on the ropes. If not as many easily stampable “Tea Party” candidates are rocketing up the ladders of power, their views surely are, newly embraced by some incumbents who recognize that the old Republican party is dead, or needs to be.

The strength of the Tea Party was never going to be measured by how many of its candidates did battle against the Republican party; its success is confirmed by the extent of its thorough infiltration of the party, moving it to the right by championing consistent, unapologetic conservatism— which is all the Tea Party has ever been.