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‘Tea’ is talk of Election 2010

Two years ago, Lynda Tyler’s life featured plenty of hobbies, but politics wasn’t among them. Today phone banks, polls and debates dominate her life. The Wichita, Kan., resident has joined the Tea Party.

Two years ago, Lynda Tyler’s life featured plenty of hobbies, but politics wasn’t among them. Today phone banks, polls and debates dominate her life. The Wichita, Kan., resident has joined the Tea Party.

“We’ve tried to help the Republicans, but they don’t want our help,” explains Tyler. “They see us as a threat.”

Tyler founded Kansans for Liberty, the Tea Party’s chapter in Wichita, because, she says, Republicans have abandoned goals of personal, fiscal responsibility and smaller government.

According to a recent CBS poll, 22 percent of Americans view the Tea Party favorably, up from nil when the movement started in January 2009. Five in 10 Tea Party supporters are Republicans, while two in 10 are Democrats. “They don’t like how government grew under George W. Bush with the bailout of the banks and auto industry,” explains Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “And government kept expanding with Obama’s healthcare reform. One of these expansions wouldn’t have made the Tea Party so popular, but together they have.”

Today, Tea Party candidates are running for the House of Representatives, the Senate, governorships and in local elections. Like Sarah Palin, the movement’s unofficial head, they‘re often Republicans.

But the GOP isn’t sure whether to applaud this movement or fret about it. “Many elected Republicans had abandoned the party’s long-held principles on fiscal policy,” explains Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the Cook Political Report. “The Tea Party arose to remind Republicans what their party stands for.”

That’s why political neophyte Scott Kirkland of California is running for Congress. “It doesn’t take long for great powers to unravel, and the national deficit could topple the U.S. ... But nobody else is addressing it.”

Political trend T-shirts


Officially, CafePress is a website where 11 million users buy and sell custom-made products. Unofficially, the site functions as a political barometer.

“In 2008 it was all about Obama and Palin, but now we have 695,000 Tea Party T-shirts, mugs, mousepads and other products,” reports CafePress’s trendspotter Marc Cowlin. “We also have 390,000 anti-Tea Party products.”

During the past year, Tea Party products on CafePress have increased by 400 percent.

That’s a number worth watching, because CafePress sales can predict election outcomes.

“In 2004 we could predict, based on the number of products on our site, that George W. Bush would win a decisive victory against John Kerry,” explains Cowlin.

“Two years ago, we could predict which states Obama and Hillary Clinton would win, respectively, and that Obama would win over McCain. But it’s harder to predict a Congressional election.”

 
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