Yet it’s essential to get history right, and what was most important about 1994 politically won’t make or break the 2010 elections. Congress changed hands in 1994 because the Christian right recruited new voters and white Southerners shifted en masse to the GOP.

Neither evangelicals nor white Southerners can swing this year’s election, because they are the Republican Party…

Tea-party activists do share the ideological intensity of some GOP voters of 1994. But they are neither new voters, like 1994’s evangelicals, nor are they party switchers, like 1994’s white Southerners. There is no good evidence — in surveys or reporting — that they are anything other than disaffected conservatives who have previously voted Republican. At this moment, the odds are better that they’ll split the GOP than that they’ll sweep the Democrats out of power.