Not New, Just New to You

Those who feel most positive towards the Tea Party have been voting at high levels for a while now


Well folks, I am sorry I did not post anything yesterday. I was simply worn out from all the competition over the last few days. The end of the French Open and the beginning of the NBA Finals have been intense enough. But then there was the waiting on Sunday to see who would win MTV Movie Awards “Best Kiss!” (Answer: The Twilight kids, second year in a row. Don’t tell me you weren’t relieved.) And of course, the most draining moments of my weekend came even earlier when, on Friday night, eighth-grader Aditya Chemudupaty, Texas’ only representative, fell in the final round of the National Spelling Bee, leaving us all to hope for a trophy next year. (It may be a metaphoric trophy. I’m not really sure about these things.)

So obviously I had to rest up for the competition today. Today’s primaries may not be in Texas, but I’d expect some aftershocks to hit our fair state. It’s the biggest national election day until November—ten states are heading into their primaries, not to mention a Democratic run-off for Arkansas’ Senate seat. In California’s Republican primaries, two first-time candidates with long corporate histories—Carly Fiorina, formerly CEO of Hewlett-Packard and eBay chief exec Meg Whitman face off against more traditional GOP candidates with experience. Fiorina (who brought us the best ad, maybe ever) wants a shot at the state’s Senate seat while Whitman’s hoping to be California’s next governor. Evidently career politicians are even less popular than Wall Street these days.

I won’t get into other states’ affairs (I’m anything but nosy) but if you need a summary, Politico has the most straightforward breakdown of the races. Gail Collins has the funniest. Take your pick.

Furthermore, I’ve got to start gearing up for the state’s Republican convention. Starting Friday, we’re gonna be liveblogging it up while Haley Barbour speaks, Rick Perry charms and Debra Medina sits outside. Nothing says grand old party like that crowd.

At any rate, the Republican party is certainly where the interesting dynamics seem to be. It’s clear that nationally they’re struggling between traditional office holders and what it considers to be the new and potentially powerful Tea Party movement. With these newly vocal and highly energized crowds, no one wants to ignore The Parable of Charlie Crist. Moderation in moderation would be a good GOP mantra. But interestingly, while our Tea Party friends may be newly-mobilized, they aren’t beginners when it comes to the political process.

A May poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal reveal some rather surprising crosstabs. (If you don’t have iPoll, I’m not sure if there’s a way to get crosstabs.) Of people who felt “very positive” about the Tea Party, 92 percent said they voted in the 2008 presidential elections. Even in the 2006 midterms, 81.8 percent said they went to the polls. In case that isn’t clear enough, let me just say that is insane. 82 percent in a midterm election.

I like to think I can count on turnout for midterms to be less than my grades in Biology.

Of those who just felt “positive” towards the Tea Party, the numbers are still high—78 percent in 2008 and 70 percent in 2006. Those are not normal numbers. In terms of the general population, the poll shows only 60 percent voted in 2006 (and 82 percent in 2008).

This is part of the Tea Party movement that may be getting missed. These guys aren’t new. They’re just newly energized. Not only were they already voting—they were already voting Republican. Seventy-five percent of those “very positive” on the Tea Party voted for John McCain, and 70 percent of those who were “positive” on the movement were McCain supporters. The Republican party awoke their own members—not by reaching out to non-voters but by getting current voters excited.

And it’s worked. Seventy-nine percent of those “very positive” Tea Party folks are also “very interested” in the upcoming election. Only 43 percent of the general population was that interested.

While the effect is disputed, the Democrats electoral gains in 2008 had at least something to do with mobilizing new voters. The Republicans thought of an easier way. Get your own people excited. Steal a page from the Libertarian playbook and create a message that’s anti-tax, anti-federal government. It may cause some warring within the party, but hey, what’s a little competition?

Just ask Aditya Chemudupaty.