In Americans Vote for Maturity (Wall Street Journal- Opinion Journal), Peggy Noonan noted that quality still mattered in the final election:
What the tea party, by which I mean members and sympathizers, has to learn from 2010 is this: Not only the message is important but the messenger.
Even in a perfect political environment, those candidates who were conservative but seemed strange, or unprofessional, or not fully qualified, or like empty bags skittering along the street, did not fare well. The tea party provided the fire and passion of the election, and helped produce major wins—Marco Rubio by 19 points! But in the future the tea party is going to have to ask itself: Is this candidate electable? Will he pass muster with those who may not themselves be deeply political but who hold certain expectations as to the dignity and stature required of those who hold office?
This is the key question the tea party will face in 2012. And it will be hard to answer it, because the tea party doesn’t have leaders or conventions, so the answer will have to bubble up from a thousand groups, from 10,000 leaders.
Electable doesn’t mean not-conservative. Electable means mature, accomplished, stable—and able to persuade.
Yet while quality counts, some high quality blue dog Democrats, most notably Jim Marshall from Georgia’s eighth district, fell as a casualty to many voters who though not normally so partisan refused to vote for any Democrat. It was as if they wanted to assure the strongest possible majority to either stop or repeal the onslaught of reckless regulation. Quality mattered less in retaining office than it did in gaining it.
The loss of blue dogs like Marshall may make the conflict even more polarizing since their are fewer conservatives among the Democrats to achieve any sort of bridge.