Is there such a thing as a tea party Democrat? The answer, it seems, is yes. Polls show the group exists, but determining its impact is difficult. What role the group could play in the 2012 elections is even murkier, except as a rallying cry for Republicans who say the movement is a bigger tent than it appears.
Recently, Republican leaders have gone out of their way to make the argument that the tea party is more than just a group of (somewhat) disaffected Republicans who are angry about government spending they perceive to be out of control and the large size of the federal government.
Republicans contend that the tea party movement, which surged in the 2010 midterm elections, includes not just Republicans but also independents and Democrats.
In announcing her 2012 presidential bid this month, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) described the tea party this way: “It’s made up of disaffected Democrats. It’s made up of independents. It’s made up of people who have never been political a day in their life.”
In March, former Republican National Committee chairman Michael S. Steele said there are “many Democrats, conservative Democrats, in the tea party movement.”
And at a 2012 presidential forum in New Orleans in June, Bachmann estimated that the tea party consists of 60 percent Republicans, 20 percent independents and 20 percent Democrats.
Democratic leaders, meanwhile, tend to dismiss the tea party as a bloc of voters who are bound to vote Republican.
So who’s right?
This answer lies, as it often does in politics, somewhere in the middle.
Polling has never shown Democrats to be 20 percent of the tea party, as Bachmann claims, but it has shown there are a significant number of Democrats who claim to be part of the movement. Often, that number is somewhere around 10 percent.
The Winston Group, a GOP polling firm, last year showed that 13 percent of tea partyers were Democrats; Gallup put the number at 15 percent.
I don’t know about you but I drink coffee. Or beer.
But whatever floats your boat.
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