Just 13% of Americans self-identify as members of the Tea Party movement, but a new Quinnipiac poll shows they may well hold the key to the 2010 midterm elections. Respondents say they would vote for a Republican over a Democrat by 44% to 39%. But if a Tea Party candidate is in the mix, the calculus changes drastically: Tea Party, 15%; GOP, 25%; Democrat, 36%.
“The Tea Party could be a Republican dream—or a GOP nightmare,” says a Quinnipiac official. “If the Tea Party were to run its own candidates for office, any votes its candidate received would to a very great extent be coming from the GOP column.” The poll shows that while 70% of American voters are “somewhat” or “very dissatisfied” with the direction the country is going, 92% of tea partiers feel that way. The question for anxious Republicans: Are they dissatisfied enough to run candidates in November?