As the country prepares for some fiercely competitive midterm elections, the Tea Party has taken center stage. The enthusiasm it has generated, so the story goes, is contributing to a groundswell of support for Republican candidates who support the movement.
Of course, the story is more nuanced than that, with the political climate varying from state to state and district to district. But in Illinois, it seems the Tea Party is having a measurable impact in important statewide races.
A new poll from Rasmussen Reports suggests that a strong plurality of Illinoisans think the Tea Party is good for the country, and that more than one in five likely voters considers himself a member of the movement.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state finds that 63% do not associate themselves with the Tea Party, and 15% are not sure whether their views are in line with the movement.
Forty-five percent (45%) of voters in the state think the Tea Party is good for the country, which is right in line with national sentiments. Twenty-nine percent (29%) disagree and say it is bad for the country, while 14% feel it is neither good nor bad. Another 12% are not sure what kind of impact the Tea Party movement has on the country.
Forty-one percent (41%) of Republicans consider themselves Tea Party members, while 10% of Democrats and 21% of voters not affiliated with either major political party do the same.
These strong numbers for the Tea Party in Illinois go a long way toward explaining how a recently solid-blue state could elect two Republicans in its biggest races. Mark Kirk is neck-and-neck with Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in the U.S. Senate campaign, and Bill Brady has a solid lead over incumbent Governor Pat Quinn.