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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Should Republicans beware the tea party?



Beware, Florida Republicans: The tea party movement that swept you into office in 2010 could cost you the next election. That’s the takeaway message from Republican pollster and consultant Alex Patton, who conducted a recent survey showing that, by a 2:1 ratio, registered Florida voters said the tea party movement did not represent their views.


The sentiment against the tea party is significantly higher among self-described independent voters, who swing elections in Florida and who looked unfavorably on the tea party by 3-to-1, the poll showed. Only Republican voters favored the tea party movement, with 68 percent in support and less than 20 percent opposed.

“There’s a real danger to Republican candidates,” said Patton, a founder of the Gainesville-based War Room Logistics polling firm.

“If, in a primary race statewide, a candidate hugs the tea party too tightly in order to win the primary,” he said, “it significantly causes you issues in a general election.”

But there’s a catch for Republicans: The tea party movement is dear to the base of the GOP. Last year it helped fuel the Republican takeover in the Florida Cabinet as well as the U.S. House. So Republican candidates for president and U.S. Senate are courting the movement to ensure a primary win before they face off against President Obama or Sen. Bill Nelson in the 2012 general election.

“You’re going to see candidates walk a fine line,” said Tony Fabrizio, pollster for Gov. Rick Scott, who owed much of his success last year to the tea party.

“The tea party of a year ago is different from the tea party of today,” Fabrizio said. “Last year, the tea party was new, fresh and it represented the antigovernment outsider. Now, the brand maybe has a little tarnish.”

Marc Caputo

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 7:22pm]


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