Nominating a more conservative candidate because she or he is the more electable Democrat is sometimes necessary, but nominating more conservative Democrats who can't win anyway is pointless. This is not just an abstract point, because candidates like Blanche Lincoln, even if she were to win, often stand in the way of successfully passing legislation once they are elected. Therefore, if they are not more electable in November, there is very little strategic reason to nominate these types of candidates in primaries.
In an election like Lincoln's the general disdain for primary challengers which is held almost universally by political elites is also probably a factor which pushes people like Bill Clinton to support her. This demonstrates the enduring strength and allure of the insider political culture and the deep fear of a primary challenge which many elected officials fear. After all, if people like Lincoln lose primaries simply because they lose touch with voters, than almost anybody would be vulnerable to a primary challenge. The word for that is democracy; and it is disturbing to again see how many politicians are afraid of it.
As a political phenomenon, the Tea Partiers are more colorful than mysterious. They are not really a new or post-party phenomenon, but are the latest incarnation of the populist conservative wing of the Republican Party, the political descendants of Richard Nixon's Silent Majority or the angry white men who catapulted Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party into control of the Congress in 1994. Tea Partiers will vote overwhelmingly for the Republican Party in November, or they will stay home. Very few will vote Democratic; and third party rumblings that have not yet died away, will do so in the next months.
The decision of so many leaders of the Democratic Party to support a senator who while opposing most of the party on an increasing number of important issues, was still a colleague and, presumably, a friend, was a mistake, but that mistake was compounded by the failure of any of these prominent Democrats to insist that Lieberman back the winner of the primary before agreeing to support him in that primary. This kind of agreement is very common in primaries and one of the things which helps hold the party together. By not demanding this as a condition for their endorsement, all these Democratic leaders opened the doors for Lieberman, after losing the primary to Lamont, to continue to contest the general election. Most of those prominent Democrats endorsed Lamont after he won the primary, but because they had not done their political work in advance, had much less leverage with Lieberman as they should have.