Take note, too, of the limitations of the Tea Party. It’s easy to get carried away – as Tea Party fans themselves certainly do – with the belief that they are a new force breaking the mould of American politics. But the public is becoming increasingly negative towards the Tea Party, while a new analysis published in the New York Times this week suggests the campaign is largely made up of the same old white, Christian, conservative Republican voters who did the business for Newt Gingrich in 1994 and for Bush a decade later. “The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government,” conclude political scientists David Campbell and Robert Putnam, “but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God into government.”
This matters because, out there in the real US, real voters are not so much enthused as turned off by the overmingling of religion and politics. Yet that’s what Bachmann, who holds prayer sessions on the campaign trail, offers. And it’s also what Texas governor Rick Perry, the latest Republican contender to be written up in grand guignol terms, offers too. Perry may pull in supporters on the campaign trail but when he holds large prayer rallies, when he calls the head of the Federal Reserve treasonous and threatens him with a “pretty ugly” reception in Texas, and describes Obama as “the greatest threat to our country”, both of which he did this week, he cuts himself off from many more voters than he speaks for.