It’s been amusing to watch Republican figures in Washington pivot shamelessly from talking down the significance of the FL-13 special election and disrespecting their candidate and his campaign, to declaring David Jolly’s victory a massive turning point in American political history, and perhaps in the entire course of human affairs. It’s even more amusing when you remember they went through a similar dance last year with Mark Sanford.

But the best spinning is actually happening after the initial spin is pretty much over: Republican Establishment figures are sending out the word that they hold no grudges against Jolly, but hope everybody takes notice of how tough they got when things looked bad.

That is very much the message than comes through in Alex Isenstadt’s Politico piece on the future relationship of the GOP Establishment with disobedient candidates and Tea Party types: better shape up, minions, or we’ll do the same thing to you!

The clashes are striking because national Republicans rarely openly criticize their own candidates, especially so soon before consequential elections. But national Republicans increasingly feel the need to adopt a get-tough approach. Nearly six years removed from the presidency and often under assault from outside-the-Beltway conservatives, establishment GOP figures are searching out new ways to exert influence over unruly candidates. Cross them, and there’s a good chance the candidate won’t like what results.

Now if you read Isenstadt’s piece to the very end, you’ll hear Republicans in South Carolina, at least, say they never did and still don’t care what the national party poohbahs and their affiliated pundits think of them. And why should they? The heart of their blood-curdling threats is just this: Stay in line, or by God we’ll bad-mouth you to Politico! Can’t have that, now, can we?

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.