But the real story of the Florida election isn’t told in who won or lost, but by who voted at the polls. Despite a very contested Democratic senatorial primary, Politico’s political tracking had 300,000 more Republicans showing up to vote. In a highly competitive swing state, with a highly contested Senate race, Democrats were a third as likely to vote as Republicans – a disastrous scenario for the Left.
This number is reflective of a number of things. Energized by the Democratic agenda, Republicans are active and showing up at polls. The Tea Party, at least on the primary level, is an influential movement and capable of effecting the ballot box in November in the right races with the right candidate. Incumbent Democrats are having trouble holding seats and holding voters in the face of a lackluster economy and a legislative record that has left its base unsatisfied. Independents, meanwhile, are upset over an economy that has not only been stagnant but worsened in some respects over the last year. Republicans who have been profligate spenders or shaky on their fiscal bona fides are experiencing difficulty in their own primaries and being replaced by new fiscally conservative faces.
Nancy Pelosi famously dismissed the Tea Party as an “astro-turf” affair – a manufactured movement with no genuine support among the grassroots. But the Florida results are only latest sign that the Tea Party’s appeal runs deep, and that it’s opposition to the massive growth of government and a ballooning debt is finding real purchase with grassroots voters. The same conclusion is supported by current polling, which shows the Tea Party to be more popular than either mainstream party. And if the Tea Party proves to be the instrumental force behind the Republican rebound in 2010, Democrats will have little choice but to start taking the movement seriously. By then, of course, it may be too late.
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