The Tea Party could have become Perot ’92, an anti-government movement that spurned the Republicans, went third-party and cost George H.W. Bush reelection, ending 12 years of Republican rule. Had the Tea Party gone that route, it would have drained the Republican Party of its most mobilized supporters and deprived Republicans of the sweeping victory that awaits them on Nov. 2.
Instead, it planted its flag within the party and, with its remarkable energy, created the enthusiasm gap. Such gaps are measurable. This one is a chasm. This year’s turnout for the Democratic primaries (as a percentage of eligible voters) was the lowest ever recorded. Republican turnout was the highest since 1970.
True, Christine O’Donnell’s nomination in Delaware may cost the Republicans an otherwise safe seat (and possibly control of the Senate), and Sharron Angle in Nevada is running only neck-and-neck with an unpopular Harry Reid. On balance, however, the Tea Party contribution is a large net plus, with its support for such strong candidates as Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Joe Miller of Alaska, Mike Lee of Utah. Even Rand Paul, he of the shaky start in Kentucky, sports an eight-point lead. All this in addition to the significant Tea Party contribution to the tide that will carry dozens of Republicans into the House.