NUTMEGS AND TEA BAGS…. The Wall Street Journal had an interesting item the other day, noting that the “rise of conservative ‘tea party’ activists,” which has “created a dilemma for Republicans.” The GOP is, to be sure, glad to have energized far-right activists. On the other hand, the base is increasingly radical, and is expecting right-wing fealty from Republican candidates.

“[T]hese newly energized conservatives present GOP leaders with a potential problem,” the WSJ noted. “The party’s strategy for attracting moderate voters risks alienating activists who are demanding ideological purity, who may then gravitate to other candidates or stay at home.”

Take Connecticut, for example, where President Obama was elected by a 22-point margin, and where the Democratic presidential candidate won literally every county in the state. Sen. Chris Dodd (D) is seeking re-election next year in the traditionally “blue” state, but is considered very vulnerable.

Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R), the leading GOP challenger for Dodd, had an item on his blog on Friday, reversing course on some of his more notable policy positions:

I was wrong about two issues I supported in Congress — the Employee Free Choice Act (also known as “card check”) and “cap and trade.” After hearing more from the people who would be most affected by these bills, I became convinced they would cause more harm than good and I would oppose them in the Senate.

This came just a few days after Simmons spoke to some right-wing activists and boasted, “This state and this country needs people like you…. I’ve made it a habit over the years to carry my Constitution in my pocket as a reminder of what this country and what this country’s government is all about. But more recently because of the participation of many of you, I’ve added something to my Constitution. I’ve added a tea bag.”

Keep in mind, when Simmons was in the House, before his defeat in 2006, he was one of the most moderate GOP lawmakers in the chamber. In the 109th Congress, he was the seventh least conservative Republican in the House. In the 108th, Simmons was the fourth least conservative House GOP lawmaker. For that matter, he knew all about EFCA and cap-and-trade policy, and knew both were worth supporting.

And now Rob Simmons is running statewide in a reliably “blue,” New England state, moving sharply to the right on key issues and walking around with a tea bag in his pocket. Instead of reminding voters about his centrist bona fides, Simmons is pandering shamelessly to Teabaggers.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.