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'Tea party' clout: What was learned from Sen. Robert Bennett loss

The 'tea party' can claim a major victory with the ouster of Utah's three-term incumbent Sen. Robert Bennett. But Utah's primary rules are odd, meaning the truer test may come May 18 in Kentucky.

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The truer test will come May 18, when Kentucky Republicans will choose their candidate for an open Senate seat. The race is between Trey Grayson, a candidate backed by the full might of the Washington establishment, and Rand Paul, who is backed by Sarah Palin, the tea parties, and is the son of Ron Paul, the former presidential candidate and darling of many of America's most conservative voters.

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The clearest way for the tea party movement to have an effect on national politics would be to push their favored candidates through Republican primaries in Republican-leaning states and congressional districts. Utah certainly qualifies, as would Kentucky.

Polls suggest that Mr. Paul has a sizable lead in the Kentucky race, but it might be shrinking as Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell takes to the airwaves to support Mr. Grayson. In addition, Paul will not have the help of the conservative Club for Growth, which spent $200,000 in Utah in a bid to unseat Bennett.

All about anti-incumbency?

Beyond Utah, primary results have been mixed so far. But the overarching lesson appears to be a hardening against incumbents. Utah might be merely the extreme example of this trend.

Particularly in the Republican Party, anger over rampant government spending and the expansion of entitlements appears to have driven voters further to the right. Whether they have moved as far right as the tea party will only begin to become apparent after May 18.

IN PICTURES: Tea Parties

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