Why 2010 doesn't look so hot for the Republicans
All things being equal, 2010 ought to be a fantastic year for the Republicans. The reason for this is that the Democrats just had two fantastic election years in a row, and we're in the middle of a Democratic president's first term. Plus the economy sucks. This should spell great news for Republicans.
But it won't. The Republican Party is either leaderless or has too many leaders, depending on how you look at it. The Tea Partiers are revving up voters, sure, but they also risk scaring off moderates from voting Republican--even moderate Republicans.
Much attention has been paid to the special elections in New York's 23rd district, Pennsylvania's 12th district, and Massachusetts' Senate race. But I don't think any of these really set the narrative the way a lot of people would like to think. It's more like we don't want to have to wait until this November before we can talk about which way the country is definitely heading. So I could be just as wrong as anyone, but my takeaway is that the Tea Party is a weird populist movement, in that it opposes government but doesn't actually stand for anything. (Sure, it claims to be in favor of the Constitution, but seriously--who runs for office while taking a stand against the Constitution?)
In the end, I think the Republicans will come out with a few more seats in the House and Senate than they did before, but that's about it. It'll hurt them, too, because of all this talk we've been hearing about how Obama was spelling certain doom for the Democrats, for America, for Western civilization, for Christendom, etc. When the doom fizzles, what are the Republicans going to have left to freak out about? Not that they'll stop freaking out or anything, but unless they take at least one of the houses of Congress, they're going to look pretty impotent.
If Rand Paul loses his election, the Republican Party is going to want to have a lot less to do with the Tea Party. However, there's not a whole lot they can do to get rid of them. The Republicans are going to be in a bad way until someone inside the Republican Party stands up and actively tries to rip the Tea Party out of their party, because no one can clean the Republicans' house for them. Until that happens, the Republicans are going to remain a very vocal minority, and very likely shrinking in influence.