Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is Bradley Byrne vs. Dean Young a Republican Bellweather?

In an oddity of election night efficiencies, a special election Republican primary run-off is happening tonight in Alabama.

Mainstream Republican Bradley Byrne, a former educator faces Dean Young, a Tea Party fire-brand.  It is a clear choice of reasonable conservative versus wing nut.  We've seen a lot of wing nuts win these kinds of races in the past.  Is the GOP over the Tea Party?  Are they tired of losing races they should win by running radical candidates?

I'm not sure we will get the answer from this race.

Alabama's 1st District is WAY to the right of the country as a whole.  It went for Mitt Romney by 25 points.  The Cook Political report rates it an R +15 district, meaning it is 15 points more conservative than the nation as a whole (the Romney numbers would place it at closer to R+30.)  A Tea Party candidate winning in an almost can't-lose general election wouldn't be a shocker.

Byrne winning would actually be news, as it would show a rejection of the Tea Party in the depths of the red heartland.  Byrne got more votes in the first wave of the primary, clocking in at 35% versus 23% for Young, although obviously short of the 50% needed to avoid a run-off.

Byrne would figure to be the favorite, starting from the larger base.  But polling is scant and it wouldn't shock me to see another Tea Party darling pull off this race - a result that I don't think has much larger significance.

In the past 6 years, the GOP has given away Senate races in Missouri, Delaware, Nevada and had a write-in save them from giving away one in Alaska.  Will they learn and get their act together?

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