The center strikes back

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A mere month ago, it seemed as if America’s political center was on life support, and maybe even dead.

Not anymore. Today, the center is striking back.

How did it happen? First, we saw a parade of polls showing the Republican Party and the Tea Party suffering devastating hits due to last month’s 16-day Republican-engineered government shutdown, which Standard and Poor’s estimated cost the economy $24 billion. As the shutdown dragged on, and it became clear that Tea Party House Republicans really might let the U.S. default on its debt to seize what they could not win in elections, business-oriented donors began balking, threatening to withhold donations unless the shutdown stopped.

Then last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the center-right Republican detested by Tea Partiers and conservative talk show hosts for his willingness to work with Democrats, was re-elected in a rout in which he made huge inroads among traditional Democratic groups, and won independent and moderate voters. In Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeated unabashed Tea Partier Ken Cuccinelli (but not with the whopping margin that most pundits and pre-election polls had predicted). In Alabama, the GOP’s business wing successfully beat back the Tea Party in Bradley Byrne’s victory over Tea Partier Dean Young.

The significance?