[T]he movement’s rise has complicated matters for potential 2012 candidates by dividing the GOP into three camps.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, one third of Republicans say they don’t back the tea party. Among this group, a slight plurality says Mr. Romney is the GOP’s “most important leader.”
One third of Republicans support the tea party so strongly that they describe themselves as part of the movement more than they identify as Republicans. Among this group, Mr. Gingrich is considered the GOP’s “most important leader”—ahead of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has tied herself closely to tea-party candidates this year.
The final third supports the tea party but identifies more as Republicans. Ms. Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are cited as top leaders most often among this group.
One thing missing from this passage, however, is the question of intensity. If the party is divided up by thirds, but the one-third that self identifies as Tea Partiers are the most passionate (and most likely to canvass and vote in primaries), then the likes of Gingrich and Palin have an edge over someone like Romney. On the other hand, Romney seems to have the big money.