A new poll conducted by the Downs Center/SUSA available via attachment at Real Clear Politics, provides some informative lessons for tea party activists. The data suggest that what it will take to maximize gains for conservative Republicans in the primary season is a principled targeting of the middle, focusing on bread-and-butter issues like the economy, while de-emphasizing ideology. From the study:
Tea Party Movement
Respondents were asked two questions about the Tea Party Movement. The first asked if their opinion of the Tea Party Movement was favorable, unfavorable, neutral, or if they had no opinion of the movement. The second asked if the respondent identified with the Tea Party Movement. Favorable views were held by 42% of the respondents while 23% had unfavorable views. One in five (20%) of the respondents had a neutral view and 15% had no opinion. Although 42% had a favorable view of the Tea Party Movement, only 27% identified with the movement. The percentage of Republican primary voters holding a favorable view of the Tea Party Movement jumped to 78%. The percentage of Republican primary voters identifying with the Tea Party Movement increased to 56%.
Despite the anti-Washington persona of much of the Tea Party Movement, its Indiana supporters are more supportive of the “establishment” candidate Dan Coats than other candidates, including Marlin Stutzman who has been endorsed by the Senate Conservatives Fund which is led by Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). The Senate Conservatives Fund has endorsed and attempted to raise money for conservative candidates against more moderate establishment Republicans. Just over a third of those voters viewing the Tea Party Movement favorably (34%) were supporting Coats with 21% supporting Hostettler and 20% supporting Stutzman.
Among Republican primary voters identifying with The Tea Party Movement, Coats lost some of his support, but still has the plurality at 30% with 23% supporting Stutzman and 21% supporting Hostettler.
The polling, carried out by two professors, has the establishment candidate Coats up by 12 points. The bane of our existence is the "Independents leaning Republican" demographic aka those "mavericks" who think that John McCain is a conservative because the media outlets keep telling them so.
That being said, nearly four out of five Republican primary voters hold favorable views of the tea party movement. Those who self-identify with the tea party movement is just over half, however, at 56%.
This suggests that the tea party movement can win over many more voters by sticking to core issues like the economy, rather than more obscure issues like Obama's "communism" or the birth certificate issue. These are legitimate issues, but they are not going to win any "Independents" on the fence over to our side.
We don't need any more RINOs like Mark Kirk (who does have the general election lead in Illinois) or Charlie (oh) Crist (who just defected from the Republicans; see Charlie Crist to G.O.P.: Drop Dead from the charming New York Times)) winning their primary noms. We need men like John Hostettler of Indiana (see May 2nd story), who registered Republicans prefer to former Indiana Senator (and disappointment) Dan Coats.
We also need to convince the moderates that Constitutional conservatism is "sane" and not "right-wing." The best way to do this is to keep posterizing regular Americans, in other words, the blue collar workers, little old ladies, and middle American kids who attend tea party rallies, as emblematic of the movement. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and on the Internet they are a powerful force multiplier.
In terms of messages to the moderate middle, we should focus like a laser beam on common-sense economics. The failure of the left's recent Keynesian experiment is clear even according to its own terms (remember last spring when Obama promised 8% unemployment by now?). Government has contributed ZERO and actually represented a net drag on the economy's (jobless) recovery" in 1Q 2010, after hundreds of billions of dollars in government spending, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis' recent report (See Table 2: Government consumption expenditures and gross investment; summary). So the Democrats not only lie when it comes to the economy, the government confirms that the Democrats lie with its own statements and reports. Such arguments are more persuasive to those "pragmatists" who think ideology is utterly irrelevant.
The media will continue to portray the tea party movement as "fringe," even infiltrating and planting their own "racist" subverters. We should not help the media by venting our understandable fear and alarm at the socialists in government. Our frustration with the disconnected "middle" cannot overwhelm our need to truly crush the leftist Democrats in November.
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