How Will 2014 Midterms Treat The Tea Party? Spoiler Alert: Not Well
Can you believe it's already mid-October? Number one, it's officially fall, and number two, the 2014 midterm elections are nearly upon us — voting will take place nationwide on Nov. 4 — and if you're the kind of person motivated by functional, cooperative government, you may have a question on your mind: how are the Tea Party's midterm election chances? In short, not great. Thanks to a grueling GOP primary season, and the seeming imperative of many Republican voters to not nominate the unelectable this time around, it's a pretty thin field of candidates left who actually fit the Tea Party mold.
As detailed by OpenSecrets' Lalita Clozel, there's a trio of candidates who're rolling through to the November ballot with some anti-GOP establishment bonafides still intact — Ben Sasse in Nebraska, Joni Ernst of Iowa, and incumbent Representative Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who's running to unseat Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, all of whom have received money and backing from national Tea Party organizations. And of course, there's also David Brat, the Virginia House candidate who knocked off Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
They represent an impressive feat this election cycle, as many state-level Tea Partiers have been vanquished by the party's establishment wing lately, infamously so in Mississippi, where Chris McDaniels has been trying to find a way to legally rip the nomination from the victorious Sen. Thad Cochran for months. In simplest terms, these are the people who're carrying the Tea Party banner forwards — these brave, ignoble few.
But a cursory glance at the state of races nationwide shows a Tea Party on the decline, not the palpable (or at the very least unavoidable) political force it was in its heyday following the midterm election of 2010. Of course, the reality is that being a member of the Tea Party isn't as concrete as being a member of, say, the Republican Party writ large — while there are Tea Party campaign spending groups, as well as the so-called Tea Party Caucus in the House, it isn't actually a political party.
The sad reality for Tea Partiers may be that they just don't have broad enough appeal to make the trenchant gains that their devotees had envisioned four years ago. A Gallup poll released Oct. 1 showed that only 24 percent of Americans self-identify as Tea Partysupporters — only eight points below its height in 2011, but nonetheless a margin which may be relegating the right-wing movement to the back-burner of major party politics.
As for the chances of those candidates who did make it through to the midterm, however, it's a mixed bag. Cotton is currently polling slightly ahed of Pryor in Arkansas, and that would be a big win for the Republicans — Pryor's brand of Democratic conservatism has managed to hold that seat since 2003, an unlikely feat that could soon come to an end. In Iowa, Ernst is facing a possible neck-and-neck affair with Democrat Bruce Braley, with Ernst out ahead by a mere one point according to a Des Moines Register poll released Monday. Nebraska's Sasse, however, you can likely mark with a gold star — he's running way ahead of Democrat David Domina, meaning the Tea Party movement will have at least one solid new advocate in the Senate.
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