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The Election Before the Election, Ctd.

In a piece largely about next month's congressional election in New York's 23rd district, The Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid echoes and enlarges upon some of the points I made in a blog post about the electoral dangers the tea-party movement could present for the GOP:

In Florida, Republican leaders were elated when popular Florida Gov. Charlie Crist agreed to run for the Senate. He has adopted policies such as an aggressive approach to global warming that appeal even to Democrats. Those very policies infuriated conservatives, as did Mr. Crist's decision to campaign with President Barack Obama on behalf of the president's $787 billion stimulus package.... Mr. Crist has drawn a primary challenge from Marco Rubio, a former Florida House speaker, who is aggressively seeking tea-party members' support.

The GOP scored another potential coup when Republican Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk decided to seek Mr. Obama's former Senate seat, now held by Democratic Sen. Roland Burris. Mr. Kirk, however, voted for a Democratic climate-change bill in the House, prompting about 30 people to hold a tea-party protest at his office. Many activists vow never to support him.

In New Hampshire, Republican leaders praise Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte as a new breed of telegenic Republican, even while some conservatives attack her record as state attorney general. Former Rep. Rob Simmons, who is seeking a Senate seat in Connecticut, and Rep. Mike Castle, who just announced his Senate candidacy in Delaware, face similar scorn.

"Personally, I'm just as fed up with the Republican Party as the Democratic Party," says Catherina Wojtowicz, coordinator of the Chicago tea-party group. "The Republican Party looks great on paper. But the people who call themselves Republicans, with a few exceptions, have no idea what the party stands for, or don't care."

In related news, erstwhile stimulus champion Crist has new radio ads up blasting President Obama's plan to "spend our way into prosperity." The once-moderate Simmons, meanwhile, who's in an eminently winnable race against Chris Dodd in true blue Connecticut, has reversed himself on card check and cap and trade legislation, and taken to carrying a tea bag around in his pocket to symbolize his affinity for the tea-party movement.

Last week, I suggested that the tea-party insurgencies could hurt the GOP's chances to make major congressional gains either by winning (and supplying the party with less moderate nominees) or by losing and depressing conservative enthusiasm for the establishment nominees. I should've added that they could also hurt--especially in politically hostile terrain such as Connecticut--by pulling the establishment candidates far enough to the right to endanger them in the general.