Results from yesterday’s “Super Tuesday” Republican primaries in ten states exploded two myths about the Tea Party movement.
Myth #1 – The Tea Party is losing its political power.
The mainstream media and the Democratic Party keeping flogging the dead horse that the Tea Party movement has peaked. They point to the lack of public rallies of the sort that characterized 2009 and 2010 as evidence. Balderdash, respond local tea party activists from around the country. We’ve moved on to more important things–like organizing to get-out-the-vote.
Yesterday’s results proved that the Tea Party movement is not only live and well–it’s thriving.
The Tea Party movement claimed another victim among incumbent GOP politicians in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District, where 4 term GOP incumbent Jeanne Schmidt was upset by tea party challenger Brad Wenstrup, 49% to 43%, despite outspending him by a 3 to 1 margin. The noise you hear in the distance is the fearful expectations of a pair of old GOP Senate bulls about to experience serious Tea Party challenges in their primaries–Indiana’s Richard Lugar and Utah’s Orrin Hatch.
Exit polls also showed that GOP Primary voters are strongly supportive of the Tea Party movement. 62% of Tennessee voters fit that category, as do 59% of Ohio voters.
Myth #2 – Tea Party supporters won’t vote for Mitt Romney.
Exit polls in the two most contested states provide evidence that this oft-heard claim is untrue. In Ohio, supporters of the Tea Party movement virtually split their support between Rick Santorum (39%) and Mitt Romney (36%). Gingrich and Paul lagged far behind. In Tennessee, Santorum (39%) beat both Gingrich (27%) and Romney (25%) among Tea Party supporters. While it’s clear that Tennessee tea partiers prefer Santorum to Romney, a 14% margin is not exactly a tsunami. And Romney beat Gingrich, the only one of these three who deserves credit for helping launch the movement in 2009, in Ohio, and effectively tied him in Tennessee.
While it’s true that very few local tea party leaders have endorsed Romney, that strong opposition appears not to have translated into unbending opposition among the tea party rank and file.
With a hat tip to Mark Twain, it’s fair for those of us in the Tea Party movement to let the Democratic Party and the mainstream media in on this poorly kept secret: “Reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Michael Patrick Leahy is the editor of the Voices of the Tea Party e-book series and co-founder of Top Conservatives on Twitter and the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition. His new book, Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement, will be published by Broadside Books in spring, 2012. He can be reached on Twitter at @michaelpleahy .