A new Rasmussen poll shows just how much the "Tea Party" movement has taken hold. According to the poll, given the choice between a Democrat, a Republican, and a hypothetical "Tea Party" candidate in their congressional district, 23 percent of Americans say they would vote for the tea partier. Eighteen percent would opt for the Republican, and 36 percent would choose the Democrat. Liberals should resist the temptation to celebrate. The "Tea Party" is not a real political party and most Tea Party voters will settle for voting Republican.
The only way Democrats can capitalize on this will be if Tea Party pressure creates more situations like the one in New York's twenty-third congressional district earlier this year, where a very conservative independent candidate ended up splitting the GOP-leaning vote with a moderate Republican and allowing the Democrat to win. That seems like it was probably a fluke. In most cases, the more conservative candidate will simply run in the Republican primary and win—and economic conditions in October and November 2010 will largely determine whether or not that candidate wins the general.