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GOP candidates in the Tea Party crosshairs

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Some of Cornyn’s primary picks—remember Charlie Crist?—didn’t fare so well in 2010. But a wholesale housecleaning of GOP incumbents before the general election looks unlikely for now. One reason is the lesson of 2010, not just for senators trying to preserve their careers but also for the conservative groups deciding where to focus their money and activism.

Viability is a watchword for FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth, two of the three juggernauts that use similar criteria for their primary picks. As for the third, the Tea Party Express, founding strategist Sal Russo told me his group is willing to back candidates with “a tougher course” to victory, but “clearly we’re trying to win elections.”

Hatch has a solidly conservative lifetime rating of 89 from the American Conservative Union. But the logic of campaigns is narrow and sometimes unfair. Hatch is from a state so Republican that anyone who could best him for the nomination would be a near shoo-in in a general election (unlike, say, swing state Nevada or Democratic-leaning Delaware). And Chaffetz is eminently credible.

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