07/09/2010 11:51 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Democrats Hoping For A Tea Party Boost Should Maybe Rethink Things

Democrats who have pinned their electoral hopes in 2010 to self-identified "Tea Party" insurgents siphoning off votes from establishment GOP candidates may want to develop a new strategy. Back in March, a Quinnipiac poll suggested that Tea Party candidates "could hurt the GOP in Congressional races," but as Dave Weigel reports today, at ground level, "Tea Party activists aren't acting the part."

As Weigel notes, the Nevada Senate race between incumbent Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and GOP nominee Sharron Angle, who has Tea Party backing, offers a fine example of local tea party activists rallying behind the GOP choice over a would-be third party insurgent:

This year, Reid consistently trails in polls against Sharron Angle, an ultraconservative former state legislator who rode Tea Party endorsements to a Republican primary win. Democrats want to believe that Scott Ashjian, a shady and unknown businessman who got onto the ballot as the "Tea Party" candidate, will scoop up thousands of votes and let Reid squeak by.

Not likely. Local Tea Party activists got the jump on Ashjian, using a listserv to coordinate attacks on him, spread facts about his business and legal problems, and get as many people as possible on the record denouncing him. In short order he plunged from 18 percent to 5 percent in statewide polls. "We neutralized him pretty quickly," says Eric Odom, a Tea Party activist who relocated to Nevada, in part, to help clobber Reid. "We bought the Web address he was advertising on his Web site and pointed to only cost, like, $100. We traded talking points. We kind of shoved him into the spotlight, and it destroyed him, because he wasn't ready for it."

This behavior makes perfect sense once you understand that members of the "Tea Party" are essentially, Republicans.

Weigel has much more, so go ahead and check it out.

(Here's an interesting side-note though! As you'll see when you click through, Weigel's story is running on Which means that two weeks after the Washington Post accepted Weigel's resignation, they are compensating him anew for his reporting. Indie rock fans will understand why this affords me the opportunity to post this clip of Wilco performing "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.")

Bouncers for the Tea Party [Slate]

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