June 15, 2014 at 1:00 am

NATIONAL POLITICS

Anti-incumbent wave building

Congressman Eric Cantor, right, lost his primary race despite being House Majority Leader. Could other elected representatives meet the same fate? (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

Tea leaf readers see ominous signs in the spate of primary scares for Republican old-guarders.

It’s evidence, they say, of a renewed rebellion by ultra conservatives against those who push away from the far right wing.

The gelling consensus is that Eric Cantor’s defeat last week in Virginia by a tea party upstart, along with Thad Cochran’s fight for his political life in Mississippi, Mitch McConnell’s struggle in Kentucky and several other tough GOP primary battles confirms the party is riven by an ideological war that will make it more difficult for it to defeat Democrats this fall.

I’m not so sure, though, that this is just a Republican problem.

We may be witnessing the edge of an anti-incumbent wave that could become a kick-the-bums-out tsunami by Election Day.

The “too moderate” argument makes no sense.

The candidates facing tea party challengers are, for the most part, capital C conservatives. Eric Cantor has danced to the tea party’s tune for four years. I don’t think RINO hunters turned him out for slipping toward the middle on immigration.

Same goes for Dan Benishek, the Republican being targeted in northern Michigan. Good grief, he rode to Congress on the tea party boat in 2010, gaining note as a physician who hates Obamacare. He has one of the most conservative voting records in Congress.

Cochran isn’t a moderate, nor is Lindsey Graham in South Carolina. Nor is John Cornyn in Texas.

But what are they? Incumbents.

What I think is rallying voters is not a dissatisfaction with the conservative credentials of Republican candidates, but rather a general disgust with Washington and the politicians who populate it.

Voters believe the country is headed to hell, are fed up with the inability of their leaders to change its course, and are sick of hearing excuses.

They aren’t simply voting against incumbents because some ranting radio talk show host challenged their conservative cred.

They’re sending a broader message of their dissatisfaction by the only means available to them.

So far, Republican voters are the ones leading the charge. Democrats don’t have the same organized intra-party opposition the tea party presents for Republicans, so they’ve been spared the primary bloodshed.

That changes in November.

Look at Congress’ approval rating. They’ve never been lower. Those aren’t just Republicans who are unhappy with the performance of their representatives. Democrats and Independents are honked off, too.

And they’ll get a shot in the general election to exact their punishment.

Democrats who are mightily enjoying watching Republicans destroy each other’s political careers shouldn’t get too smug.

If they’re incumbents, they soon may be the ones at the end of the broom.

nfinley@detroitnews.com
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