This was a good election for the big boys in Washington, for deep pockets and for party connections.
Voters tended not to be in a rebellious mood Tuesday, generally giving their votes to candidates who were well within the mainstream of their party. The Republican candidates who won tended to be deeply conservative, well-financed, but also politically seasoned and well-connected to their national parties. This was an insiders’ election.
In the marquee race, the Republican establishment hoisted state House Speaker Thom Tillis on their shoulders to help him win the GOP Senate nomination – including the holy trinity of conservative politics: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association and National Right to Life. As much as any figure, former White House adviser Karl Rove was the handmaiden to Tillis’ victory.
The victory did not come easy. Despite championing what he termed “the conservative revolution in Raleigh,” which was hailed by the tea party but generated a “Moral Monday” backlash, Tillis had a Mitt-Romney-like hard time closing the sale with many GOP primary voters.
But the Senate race was not the only place where the national party and its allies won Tuesday.
But strong primary opposition to Ellmers never materialized, and Frank Roche, her challenger, was never able to make her support for immigration reform a campaign issue.
An Aiken outsider victory would be an exception to the rule. And on Tuesday night, Aiken was hoping he would be no runner-up.