Mainstream GOP Upbeat After Sweeping Tea Party

WASHINGTON (AP) -

Mainstream conservatives ran the table in Senate Republican primaries as tea party upstarts lost all six challenges to GOP incumbents, leaving the establishment upbeat about midterm elections and the insurgent movement beaten but unbowed.

Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander’s narrow win Thursday night and Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts’ triumph dashed the tea party’s last hopes of knocking out a sitting senator. Earlier this year, incumbents prevailed in Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi, for a party intent on nominating viable candidates and winning Senate control in November’s contests.

Republicans need to net six seats for the majority. Democrats currently hold a 55-45 advantage.

“The last two cycles we nominated some people who were not the best candidates for the general election,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters during a campaign stop in Hindman, Kentucky. “In 2014, I’m hard-pressed to think of a single state where we don’t have the best nominee possible in order to do what this is all about, which is to actually get elected and make policy.

“We had a good cycle so far, it doesn’t guarantee the outcome,” he said.

Meanwhile, Montana Democrats were casting about for a last-minute U.S. Senate candidate to take on Republican Rep. Steve Daines, after their hopes to hold the seat in November suffered a huge blow with the withdrawal of incumbent Sen. John Walsh, amid plagiarism allegations.

Those mentioned as potential stand-ins for Walsh include former state Reps. Franke Wilmer of Bozeman and Amanda Curtis of Butte, state Sen. Dave Wanzenried and Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger.