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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Tea Party = GOP Key to Democratic Victory?

The Third way has a provocative memo addressed to “interested parties” making a poll-driven case that the tea party has become like kryptonite to the GOP’s superman pretensions. The memo opens with a Karl Rove quote that puts things in perspective: “The GOP is better off if it forgoes any attempt to merge with the Tea Party movement…[it] will hurt Republicans if the party is formally associated with Tea Party groups.” The memo continues:

A September Gallup poll gave the Republican Party a 43-53% favorability rating, or minus ten percent. Not terrific, but not awful. But an August AP poll gave the Tea Party a minus18% rating, and a New York Times poll of the same month pegged Tea Party favorability slightly worse at 20-40%. And in a recent Third Way survey of swing voters, we found the Tea Party to be strikingly unpopular with this key demographic…We agree with Karl Rove and argue that the most effective Democratic message against Republicans is to tie the GOP to the Tea Party.

The memo uses a continuum analysis to explain the Lincoln Park Strategies/Third Way survey to show how swing voters relate to the two parties, and the numbers indicate they are closer to Republicans. However, the survey also indicated that the same poll, swing voters by 56% to19% said that the Tea Party “is going too far in jeopardizing important safety net programs.” Further,

In the space of four months, the Tea Party’s popularity dropped 17 points, plunging from a net minus 3 points to a net minus 20 points, according to the New York Times. In April 2011, a poll by the outlet placed Tea Party favorability at 26%. By August, the same poll had Tea Party favorability down to 20%, with its unfavorables up to 40%.
The Associated Press found the same trend in their polling: Tea Party favorability
declined from 33% in June 2010 to 28% in August 2011; unfavorability spiked from
30% in June 2010 to 46% in August 2011. One-third of voters had “very unfavorable”
views of the Tea Party in the August AP poll.

Noting that “the Republicans are now taking direction in almost every meaningful way from the Tea Party, the memo explains:

The public is beginning to catch on to this connection, and there is a growing concern that Republicans and the Tea Party are becoming one and the same. In February 2010, only 14% of voters felt that the Tea Party had too much influence on the Republican Party.
By August, 43% of voters felt that the Tea Party had too much influence. This trend is helpful, but it is not sufficient. The full magnitude of Tea Party control over the GOP has not yet penetrated voter consciousness. Democrats must ensure that the public knows that Speaker Boehner, candidate Romney and others embrace these positions in obeisance to the Tea Party.

Then the memo makes a bold recommendation:

Voters see the Tea Party as something to fear. That should signal to Democrats that Republicans should not be characterized as “Wall Street Republicans,” “Corporatist Republicans,” “Extremist Republicans,” or “in-the-pocket of millionaires and billionaires Republicans.” They are “Tea Party Republicans.”
Democrats must show that the Tea Party and the Republican Party are joined at the hip and that Republicans are both in league with the Tea Party and beholden to them. Democrats must use every opportunity to define radical Republican ideas and the legion of Republican candidate flip-flops as the consequences of strict adherence to Tea Party dogma.

The memo concludes, “Next November, as voters head into the voting booth, the question that must go through their minds is this: Do I really want to put the Tea Party in charge of everything–Congress and the White House? If that is the question they ask, it could be a long night for Republicans.”

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