Many Republicans are anticipating a 1994 or 2006 kind of backlash in next year’s mid-term elections, a “throw the bums out” kind of year in which they could narrow the gap in Washington. In their most optimistic moments, they dream of even winning back a majority in the U.S. House.
But they might not be even the second most popular party in the country.
According to a recent opinion poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports, that distinction would go to the Tea Party. And if you just thought to yourself, “Wait, there is no political party called the ‘Tea Party,’ ” then you understand how significant this finding is.
Some of us have been warning for months now that the small-government, anti-Democrat movement manifested in tea-party protests around the country since April didn’t necessarily represent a mother lode of votes for the GOP to mine. No doubt, many of these voters would prefer not to vote for the party of Obama, Pelosi and Reid. And so would many Americans: Since June 28, Republicans have been leading Democrats on Rasmussen’s weekly “generic ballot” poll (which asks whether you would vote for your congressional district’s Republican candidate or Democratic candidate, without specific candidate names). In recent weeks, that gap has been in the range of 43-44 percent Republican/37-38 percent Democrat.
When Rasmussen asked respondents to assume that the Tea Party movement organized as a new political party,” however, Democrats stayed about the same at 36 percent — but “Tea Party” won 23 percent and Republicans only 18 percent (22 percent were undecided).
The polling firm cautions that “it is unlikely that a true third-party option would perform as well as the polling data indicates. The rules of the election process — written by Republicans and Democrats — provide substantial advantages for the two established major parties. The more conventional route in the United States is for a potential third-party force to overtake one of the existing parties.”
I would agree with that assessment. But what the Tea Party support indicates to me is that Republicans’ attractiveness to tea partiers is tenuous, and that the GOP will have to work very hard to convert those voters’ anti-Democrat attitude into a pro-Republican result next November.
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