The GOP’s establishment-vs.-Tea Party fight isn’t going away

The last month and half in American politics has been dominated by one story and one story only: the health-care law and its (now better-functioning) website.

But on Friday, we received a reminder of another political story that isn't going away anytime soon.

As NBC's Jessica Taylor writes, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., announced he would seek re-election next year, setting up a 2014 establishment-vs.-Tea Party GOP primary against state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Conservative groups quickly reiterated their support for McDaniel and opposition to Cochran in the June 3 primary.

“Throughout his over 40 years in Washington, Sen. Thad Cochran has done some good things for Mississippi, but he’s also done some bad things. He voted to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, voted repeatedly to raise the debt limit by trillions of dollars, and even voted against a resolution that stated Congress has a 'moral obligation' to cut spending,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement. “Sen. Cochran has also voted to confirm liberal Supreme Court Justices and is a strong supporter of wasteful earmarks."

The Senate Conservatives Fund added, "Our members in Mississippi like Chris McDaniel because he will fight to stop the massive spending, bailouts, and debt that are destroying our country."

Meanwhile, the establishment in Mississippi lined up behind Cochran.

As GOP operative Henry Barbour tweeted:

-- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vs. Matt Bevin in Kentucky;

-- Sen. Lindsey Graham vs. a crowded field in South Carolina;

-- Sen. Pat Roberts vs. Milton Wolf in Kansas;

-- Sen. Lamar Alexander vs. Joe Carr in Tennessee;

-- Sen. Mike Enzi vs. Liz Cheney in Wyoming;

-- and the crowded field in Georgia vying to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

But as one Republican operative watching these Senate contests contends, it's very possible all of these GOP incumbents win their primaries next year. "As long as the senators are prepared to do the work ... all can win."

Yet there's also something going on in these races beyond ideology or the establishment vs. the Tea Party.

It's age -- or longevity in the Senate.

Cochran was first elected to the Senate in 1978; Enzi in 1996; Roberts in 1996; and Alexander and Graham in 2002.

As the Club for Growth put it in its statement on Cochran, “Throughout his over 40 years in Washington..."