Who Is the Tea Party Candidate?

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An interesting tidbit from a new Pew poll sketching the outlines of the next presidential field:

Among those who say they agree with Tea Party movement, 24% say Romney would be their first choice, 19% say Huckabee, 15% say Gingrich, 13% say Paul and 12% say Palin.

Part of Romney’s popularity among Tea Partyers is simply a product of the fact that he’s well liked among all Republicans; 21% in this survey say they’d like him to be the candidate. It’s early enough that all polling should be taken pretty lightly and Romney is certainly benefiting from high name recognition across the board. But it’s notable that he actually performs a bit better among self-identified Tea Party members than with the party overall. There are a few explanations for this. Romney does especially well with older and wealthier Republicans, two characteristics polling suggests is common in the Tea Party. Related to affluence, Tea Partyers are also on average better educated, and they may be identifying with Romney as an Ivy Leaguer.

Another factor is that Romney underperforms with Evangelicals and Catholics, in part because of his Mormon faith and, uh, nuanced position on abortion. Surveys suggest that the Tea Party is more secular and less concerned with social issues than the rest of the party.

Newt Gingrich, whose third marriage presents similar problems among the religious set, and Ron Paul, whose small government focus and foreign policy isolationism has found resonance among the fiscally focused brewsters, also perform better with the Tea Party. But it’s worth noting that there’s one candidate, ceaselessly bandied about as the archetypal Tea Party candidate who doesn’t perform better with them at all in this poll:

Sarah Palin.

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