Tea Party: Is it a case of “to be or not to be”?

According to an article in The Denver Post, while “Tea Party activists have stormed the GOP state assembly, scrutinized candidates at forums across Colorado and regularly protested policies and politicians they dislike,” [they haven’t delivered] “more voters to the GOP ranks.”

This leaves analysts wondering about the movement’s impact on the general election in November.

Colorado State university political science professor John Straayer tells The Denver Post that, “The bigger chunk of the Tea Party activists were people who were in the game already. They’re just noisier about it.” He does expect them to boost GOP turnout. Primary victories will undoubtedly increase the volunteer pool and help man phone banks and canvass precincts.

If Tea-Party favored candidates win the primaries, the Republican Party could find challenges come November because these candidates have views far outside the mainstream. According to Pat Waak, chair of the state Democratic Party, “The majority of voters are really much more moderate and centrist. You put forth the most right-wing, off-the-wall candidates and…it does help Democrats.”

While fired-up for the primaries and so far responsible for higher turn-outs than in the 2008 primaries, according to The Denver Post article, “No one is sure whether the new and unpredictable faction of the Republican voters will turn out with the same force in November if their candidates aren’t chosen” in the primaries.

During the February 2009 to May 2010 time frame, Republican voter registration dropped in Colorado. It did the same in Nevada and in Kentucky, in spite of big wins by the Tea Party darlings.

To be sure, the ranks of Democratic voters in Colorado also slipped during this period from their all-time-high. The number of unaffiliated voters, however, rose 2.8% in Colorado.

Based on the evidence so far, neither party has a lock on November. Both parties need to hang on to their base in order to get out the vote. But unaffiliated voters with less ideological purity are likely to hold the key – at least in Colorado. That being said, what happens between now and the August 10th primary may seal the deal come November.

The remaining almost four months is, as they say, “an eternity in politics.” Anything may happen. What is clear is that the body politic is restless and not very satisfied.

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