This morning, the Washington Post unveils the results of its effort to make contact with every tea party group in the nation.
The piece uses a Georgia group to suggest that the movement, while certain to be a potent force next month and possibly in 2012, may be smaller than advertised:
The local groups stand in contrast to – and, in their minds, apart from – a handful of large national groups that claim the tea party label. Most of those outfits, including FreedomWorks and Tea Party Express, are headed by longtime political players who have used their resources and know-how to help elect a number of candidates.
The findings suggest that the breadth of the tea party may be inflated. The Atlanta-based Tea Party Patriots, for example, says it has a listing of more than 2,300 local groups, but The Post was unable to identify anywhere near that many, despite help from the organization and independent research.
In all, The Post identified more than 1,400 possible groups and was able to verify and reach 647 of them. Each answered a lengthy questionnaire about their beliefs, members and goals. The Post tried calling the others as many as six times. It is unclear whether they are just hard to reach or don’t exist.
Mark Meckler, a founding member of the Tea Party Patriots, said: “When a group lists themselves on our Web site, that’s a group. That group could be one person, it could be 10 people, it could come in and out of existence – we don’t know. We have groups that I know are 15,000 people, and I have groups that I know are five people.”