As a Brit I never like to write too much about the Tea Party, but today I have no choice.
Every week that goes by the movement seems to gain more momentum. On Tuesday, our poll showed Democratic heavyweight Harry Reid clinging to a narrow lead in Nevada against Tea Party insurgent Sharron Angle. That night, Republican establishment favorite Michael Castle was knocked off his perch in the Delaware primary by upstart Christine O’Donnell. Today, our Reuters/Ipsos poll shows one of the Tea Party’s most well-known favorites, Marco Rubio, opening a clear lead in the race for a Senate seat from Florida. With just six weeks to go until the elections, Rubio leads state Governor Charlie Crist, now running as an independent, by 40 percent to 26 percent, with Democrat Kendrick Meek trailing behind.
But who is going to benefit?
Republicans are hoping the surge in enthusiasm for a right-wing agenda will get their supporters to the polls, and right now there is a definite “enthusiasm gap” between Republicans and Democrats in terms of their likelihood to vote.
Democrats are still hoping that “Tea Partiers” will simply be too right-wing for voters to accept in many states. The contest in Nevada is a critical one, with Reid hoping he can cling to his slight lead against Angle, a lead he might not have against a more centrist candidate. More to the point, some Dems could scarcely contain their glee this morning after O’Donnell’s victory, calling her an “ultra right-wing extremist” who will be rejected by Delaware voters, and arguing they might now just keep control of the Senate as a result.
But Rubio’s performance shows it may not be that simple. The son of Cuban immigrants, he has softened his rhetoric since winning the Republican nomination and has apparently picked up plenty of centrist voters along the way. The poll numbers show a big swing in his favor since mid-August, when another Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Crist marginally ahead.
Finally today, take a look at Kim Dixon’s analysis of how the tax policy espoused by both sides of the aisle would really affect small businesses and hiring, a story that cuts through some of the rhetoric around this debate. There’s an interesting story too about more privacy problems for Google after the company fired an engineer for apparently spying on teenagers’ accounts. And tomorrow, look out for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testifying on China on the Hill, where anger over the yuan’s value and calls for retribution are mounting. The issue puts the administration in a tight spot as the elections loom, as I am sure they will be reluctant to be drawn into a damaging dispute with Beijing.