I believe I've discovered the expiration date for the distinctive 'Tea Party' style of politics: Tuesday, November 2, 2010. It is clear that the two most prominent Tea Party Senate candidates of this cycle, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Rand Paul in Kentucky, are headed for very likely defeat, barring a scandal of epic proportions on the part of either Harry Reid or the Kentucky Democrat, Jack Conway.
The reasons are actually quite simple. The Republican party has opted to favor ideological purity over electability. This dynamic has been driven by a couple of key factors. First, disappointment with successive defeats in 2006 and 2008. Many Republican primary voters have thus drawn the conclusion that their party's establishment is deeply flawed; of course, this is exactly correct. Second, unreasonable levels of anger at Democrats, driven by desire to find a scapegoat for our current economic troubles, and inflamed by reporting of distortions of fact as well as outright falsehoods by conservative media outlets (a topic for many diaries by itself). Third, misinterpretation of recent off-year election results as some sort of tea party mandate. This is mainly driven by lazy analysis of election results (e.g., calling Scott Brown a tea party victor badly misreads what happened here in Massachusetts), and is aided and abetted by selectively ignoring certain elections (e.g., ignoring the D's win of 7 competitive special elections in a row to focus on the unusual case of Hawaii this year).
However, the ideology espoused by the Tea Party candidates is so far out of step with the mainstream of America that not even the current anger with the status quo can overcome it. In particular, Angle and Paul are great advocates of social security privatization. As CBS News recently reported on June 25, about 9% of Americans are enthusiastic about such a platform. And why? Because Americans paying attention to the real world rightly recognize the possibility of dramatic stock market plunges nowadays. And with the stock market showing bearish tendencies at the moment, that dynamic seems unlikely to dramatically reverse itself before November. Another issue is jobs. Sharron Angle has already announced that she is not responsible for bringing jobs back to Nevada, in a recent interview with Jon Ralston. Such abdications of responsibility will land with a great thud, sapping voter enthusiasm. If she's going to cut Social Security and ignore jobs, what good is she doing for the average citizen? It also doesn't help that they blame the oil spill on excessive government regulation (a position so foolish a bright 7-year old could logically demolish it), and spend lots of time harping on health care repeal (which is now opposed by 56% of the US population according to a recent NBC/WSJ poll, and trending in the Dems' direction).
Now, let's look at the polling data. Jack Conway and Rand Paul are now tied, according to Public Policy Polling. You may recall that just a few months ago, Rasmussen was spotting Rand Paul a 15 point lead in head-to-head polling. The dynamics of this race are trending strongly in the D's direction. I feel the same will shortly be shown to be true in the Sharron Angle-Harry Reid match up as well. You may note that Rasmussen hasn't put out a poll in Nevada since June 22, so I look forward to seeing someone else fill in the blanks there.
Finally, note that this is not an argument for complacency: we still have hard work left to do to ensure Reid and Conway are elected with a comfortable margin. But imagine the satisfaction of putting the alleged 'Tea Party movement' on its last legs this fall. :-)