Tea Party Fallout: Independents Turned Off, Some GOPers Worried

It's been two days now since angry conservatives hosted a series of tea parties across the country, and the fallout has some Republicans nervous.

While the anti-tax sentiment of the protests may have been sincere, the images pulled from the events have often been offensive, embarrassing, or politically problematic.

It is a development that has tripped up the GOP before. The rallies outside McCain-Palin events included some of the same bile that was seen at the tea parties: charges of fascism, terrorism and other malicious criticisms leveled at Barack Obama. And it did the Republican ticket little good in its efforts to bring moderate voters to the cause.

Tea Party:

McCain-Palin Rallies:

Not everyone sees the connection. But some Republicans and Independents do view the fallout between the tea parties and the McCain-Palin rallies in a similar way: bad for the GOP.

"It is not clear-cut that the tea-party phenomena helps the GOP, unless they have a specific measure or policy (like Prop. 13 in 1978, and income tax cuts after that) to coalesce around," said Steven Hayward, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "Right now it reminds me a bit of the free-floating 'angry moderates' of 1992 who fueled the Ross Perot candidacy, and that is the hazard for Republicans I think. I think the crazies at the rallies are a problem, but probably out of proportion (they always get the media attention) to the real breadth of sentiment underneath, which I think is largely authentic."

Self-professed middle-of-the-road political types were even more biting in their critiques.

"My own sense that is I don't see anything going on that is good for Republicans," said Doug Bailey, a longtime Republican consultant who helped co-found the centrist reform movement Unity08. "I just don't get it. It may be, and I don't doubt this, that there is a large segment of the American public that can and is riled up about taxes and can be riled up about one thing or another. But a large segment, in terms of numbers, doesn't amount to a couple hundred people demonstrating in Washington or wherever. That's a non-event ... Nobody likes taxes. So, of course, I'm sympathetic myself. I might throw a tea bag myself. But the fact is, that it is particularly ineffective for the Republican Party when it is Rush Limbaugh and the likes stirring it up. That just doesn't speak to the middle."

Of course, because the series of nationwide tea parties were geared towards a specific day (Tax Day), the political ramifications of the events seem naturally limited. "Those tea parties will be long forgotten by, oh, say tomorrow," said Stu Rothenberg, of the Rothenberg Political Report. "Do you really think that next November, when people go to the polls, the April 15 tea parties will be on their minds?"

That said, plans are in place for a next wave of protests in July. More significantly, as the GOP continues to stake their future on a wave of populist anger at the government and economy (witness: Texas Gov. Rick Perry talking about secession), the likelihood only increases that the most vocal and offensive elements of that anger will come to personify the party.

"Cons[ervatives are] finding out why I generally don't like protests on my side," Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsos said in a post-tea party tweet. "[T]hey bring out the wackos."

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