A new Rasmussen poll finds that the tea party movement's popularity is growing, so much so that it garners more support than the Republican party on a generic Congressional ballot. The poll hints that the burgeoning discontent among conservatives within the GOP threatens to splinter the party at a time when the popularity of President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress are waning as we head into an election year.
The tea party movement was conceived out of antipathy for President Obama's economic stimulus plan and cultivated by groups like Freedom Works and conservative commentators such as Glenn Beck. Its guiding principals are centered around opposition to tax increases and the expansion of federal government spending. The movement rose to prominence when it organized highly-publicized protest gatherings across the country on April 15th of this year.
As reported by Talking Points Memo, the respondents to the Rasmussen poll were asked the following question:
"Okay, suppose the Tea Party Movement organized itself as a political party. When thinking about the next election for Congress, would you vote for the Republican candidate from your district, the Democratic candidate from your district, or the Tea Party candidate from your district?"
The response of all those who were polled was Democratic 36%, Tea Party 23% and Republican 18%. Further, the poll found that independents are more inclined to vote for a tea party candidate over Democratic or Republican candidates.
While some Republicans have expressed dismay over the emergence of the tea party movement, others have suggested that the GOP should embrace the group and its issues.
Tea party sympathizers recently proposed a resolution to make the RNC withhold its endorsement and funding unless candidates pass an "ideological purity test." The movement will hold its first national convention this January in Nashville, and Glenn Beck has indicated that he intends to stake out a more activist role in politics going forward by holding seminars across the country to educate conservatives on how to run for office without the support of a major political party.
But the Republican party has yet to determine whether or not they can harness the energy emanating from the right wing without being pulled out of the mainstream. This dilemma was highlighted by the GOP's November loss of a congressional seat it had held since the 1800s, after a tea party-supported candidate pressured the establishment Republican out of the race. That race suggested something rather striking: while the GOP may not be able to win without the support of the tea party movement, they might not be able to win with it running the show either.