In order to get a better handle on the true impact of the Tea Party label it is useful to restrict our discussion to a list of Tea Party candidates in races that were considered competitive leading up to the election. The following analysis is based on the list of 138 Tea Party affiliated candidates from the New York Times. In the interest of leaving out sure winners and sure losers, races rated as “Solid Democrat” or “Solid Republican” were excluded from the analysis (67 solid ‘D’ races were dropped and 8 solid ‘R’). This leaves 30 races rated as “Leaning Democrat,” 23 races rated as “Tossup” and 10 races rated as “Leaning Republican”.

In order to get at the central question of whether Tea Partiers were underperforming what a “normal” Republican would have done in the district their performance, it is then useful to compare the performance of the Tea Partiers on the ballot with the Cook Partisan Voting Index of the district.