If ever there was proof that the Tea Party and the Republican Party do not necessarily go hand in hand, it is Christine O'Donnell's victory over the establishment in the Republican Senate primary in Delaware.
So what happens now, with the primary season ending, and the Tea Party having defined it? Does the Tea Party remake the G.O.P. in its image, staging a "hostile takeover," as Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, the libertarian advocacy group, urged activists rallying outside the Capitol last weekend to do? Or will the Republican Party co-opt the Tea Party, as Trent Lott, a former leader of the Senate Republicans, said it must?
The embodiment of this question might be Senator Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who has made himself and his Senate Conservatives Fund a kind of Tea Party Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Sitting at the intersection of the Republican Party and the Tea Party, Mr. DeMint could be a model for how the two might co-exist - or an example of how the drive for ideological purity could turn the Republicans into a niche party.
How "far to the right" are these Tea Partiers, you may ask. Zernike is eager to tell:
Even some of the primaries that Tea Party candidates lost suggest how much the Tea Party sentiment has already pushed Republicans to the right.
In Tuesday's Republican primary in New Hampshire, for example, two Tea Party candidates in the Second Congressional District lost to Charlie Bass, a former congressman swept out in the Democratic wave of 2006. Mr. Bass was once known as the classic New England moderate. But to win the nomination this year, he campaigned far to the right - so far that The Concord Monitor editorialized, "It will take such a long way back to the middle that he'd better pack a lunch."
Democrats are certainly counting on the Republicans' taking a very long trip to a very remote region of the right.
Facing dispiriting polls and an enthusiasm gap that favors the Republicans, they rejoiced at the victories of Tea Party insurgents over establishment candidates Tuesday.