Despite what many on the left may believe, not all Republican Senate candidates are supported by national Tea Parties. Carly Fiornia in California and Linda McMahon in Connecticut are two prominent examples of Republican candidates who may have won over individual Tea Party members, but haven't earned the full endorsement from the national Tea Party itself. For a candidate to be worthy of Tea Party support, he or she must fully embrace the traditional conservative tenets of fiscal responsibility, small government and a marketplace free of federal intrusion. Here is a list of candidates meeitng those qualifications.
Joe Miller of Alaska
After one of the most improbable upsets (and there were many) of the 2010 primary campaign, Miller successfully ousted incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski from the Republican ballot. Murkowski, however, wasn't ready to stop campaigning, and launched a write-in campaign. In the final month of the general election season, Murkowski successfully petitioned the Alaska Supreme Court to do something just as improbable as Miller's win: allow Murkowski's name to appear on the ballot as a write-in candidate! Isn't the disadvantage of losing a party nomination and running as a write-in candidate supposed to be having to have people write your name on the ballot? The race, which also includes Democrat Scott McAdams, will be a tight one.
Christine O'Donnell of Delaware
While Democrat Chris Coons continued to hold a sizeable lead over Republican Christine O'Donnell in the race for the Senate seat vacated by Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, she did manage to cut the lead by a few points in the waning days of the campaign. Nevertheless, Coons lead appeared insurmountable for the Tea Party candidate. O'Donnell was considered a long-shot to win the race from the very beginning, and her improbable primary victory over longtime politician Mike Castle made Delaware a focal point in the 2010 midterms. Even with a loss, however, Christine O'Donnell has a likeable quality that may very well translate into a significant political future for her.
Marco Rubio of Florida
After it became clear that Tea Party candidate Marco Rubio would be the likely victor in a Republican battle against Gov. Charlie Crist, Crist bailed on the party and ran as an independent to keep his powder dry for the general election. It didn't matter, though. Rubio continued to dominate every single poll. In the final days of the campaign, President Bill Clinton materialized in Florida to ask the Democratic candidate, Kendrick Meek, to exit the race to help clear the path for Crist. The reasoning, according to Crist, was that nobody but the Republicans wanted Rubio to win. Unfortunately, the media picked up on the story, Clinton and Meek denied any such request, and Meek stayed in the race. Rubio, meanwhile, continued to poll ahead.
Rand Paul of Kentucky
Poor Democrat Jack Conway. Heading into the general election to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, Conway decided to take a swipe at his opponent's college life and question his religious faith. Not a good idea when your opponent is ultra-conservative Tea Party candidate Rand Paul (son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul). Earlier in the campaign, Conway had been in a statistical dead heat with Paul, but after the attack ad began to run, Conway began to slip copiously. Paul successfully deflected the negativity back to Conway, and by the end of October, Paul was ahead anywhere from eight to 12 points. While no political victory is certain until the votes are counted, this one is all <i>but</i> certain.
Sharron Angle of Nevada
Way back in April, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle wasn't on anyone's chart to win the Republican primary, let alone defeat the sitting Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the general election. But that's what it was looking like in the final days of the campaign. While the lead Angle had over Reid was consistently within the margin of error for most polls, Angle lead by at least two points in <i>every</i> poll. Reid launched a series of attack ads, but the ad that got the most attention was the one Angle ran, which prompted an expletive-filled rant from "The View" host Joy Behar. Behar called Angle the "b" word, and gave Angle a tremendous fund-raising boost in the last week of the campaingn: $150,000. Behar got flowers.
Pat Toomey of Pennyslvania
Early in the general election campaign, it appeared as though Republican Pat Toomey would sail to victory. He had name recognition, and his opponent didn't. He had money and his opponent didn't. He was polling way ahead and his opponent, Joe Sestak ... well ... didn't. But then Sestak made an ingenius move to balance the scales: he called out President Barack Obama, and accused the administration of trying to get him to drop out of the race to clear a path for former Republican Arlen Specter. The intense national spotlight on Sestak gave him instant name-recognition and evened things up nicely for the Democrat. By the first of November, Toomey was hanging on by his fingernails to a slight lead over Sestak.
Jim DeMint of South Carolina
Perhaps the weirdest race in the entire 2010 midterm campaign, Incumbent Republican Sen. Jim DeMint didn't have to work too hard to stay ahead of his challenger, newcomer Alvin Greene. Greene had won the Democratic primary by perhaps the longest shot ever seen. Greene, an unemployed veteran, mysteriously managed to cobble together $10,000 of his own money to get on the ballot, then sailed to victory with 40 percent of the vote. His victory was bittersweet, however, as South Carolina Democratic leaders pleaded with him to step aside and even accused him of being a Republican plant. By the end of October, Greene was the one trailing by 40 points. Still, Greene had overcome much more to win the primary , so he probably didn't mind the odds.
Mike Lee of Utah
By mid-October, Lee had established a significant lead over Democrat Sam Granato to fill the seat being vacated by longtime GOP Sen. Bob Bennett. The race between the two had been a relatively low-key event, with few fireworks and even fewer twists. Lee came out of the gate ahead, and maintained a consistently wide lead all the way through. Regardless of whether Granato had mailed it in well before Nov. 2, the seat seemed destined to stay in the GOP bracket in 2011.
Dino Rossi of Washington
In the campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray, Rossi was diligently gaining down the home stretch. Rossi, who was down eight points just two weeks before the general election, had pulled to within four by the end of October. Rossi had to overcome significant challenges, since most of the state's counties lean Democrat (with the exception of the western shore areas, which are mostly farming communities). The four point margin was well within the margin of error for most polls, which made the battle for Washington's Senate seat a statistical dead heat.
Ron Johnson of Wisconsin
Johnson, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold for the seat he's held since 1993, did surprisingly well down the stretch for a political newcomer. A successful plastics manufacturer, Johnson hit 53 percent of the vote by the end of October 2010, according to Rassmussen Reports poll data. Other polls put him well ahead and well outside the margin of error. Considering that Johnson was just one point ahead of Feingold in July illustrates how far he's come. Since then, very little of Feingold's negative ads have resonated with voters. Feingold supporters claimed victory for their guy following the debate, yet Johnson's numbers soared in the final weeks. Polls are polls, though. The only numbers that matter are on Nov. 2.