Rand Paul is in, at least to the general election. Arlen Specter is out. The former is a Tea Party candidate and the latter is a five-termer who jumped the Republican ship to save his political career. (Turns out the ship he was on wasn't the problem, he was.) In these Kentucky and Pennsylvania cases, the voters spoke their minds and echoed a Tea Party chant: out with the old and in with the conservative.
Which leads to the question that's been debated over and over: how serious is this movement? In a year, will it still be around? Sausage Grinder discusses this succinctly in re: to Utah Sen. Bob Bennett losing his seat in the Republican convention; his basic point is, yes, the incumbent was kicked out, but the Constitution-lovin' Tea Party candidate didn't even make it through the first round. It wasn't the Tea Partyers at all.
There is, however, a distinct move to the right among conservatives while simultaneously, the liberals are moving left. (I'm going to start echoing pretty soon, hanging out here in the middle ... oh, wait! More than a third of Americans identify as moderates. Good thing we have each other to talk to.) From my vantage point, we have three options for a year from now: 1) the Tea Party will become more disparate from the Republican Party and actually form a separate party, 2) the entire Republican Party will continue listing to the right and will essentially become one big happy Tea party, or 3) the Republicans will take back some control in Washington and the Tea Party will lose its raison d'etre and peter out. I have my suspicions it'll be the third. But I've been wrong before. Every day, in fact, about something or other.
It'll be an interesting ride. Crumpets, anyone?