The tea party is not a political party, in the structural sense. The tea party movement might not even be able to sustain itself over time.
The tea party does reflect the anger and unease of the moment — and that's one significant political force, five weeks away from the Nov. 2 election.
But is it the significant force?
It is clear that this year's candidates are navigating turbulent, uncharted waters, as illustrated by a poll sponsored by the Statesman and six other Idaho newspapers:
— Forty-eight percent of respondents said they generally support the tea party movement's agenda.
— In North Idaho, tea party support peaked at 56 percent, compared with 43 percent in the Treasure Valley.
— Not surprisingly, 69 percent of Republican respondents support the tea party agenda, compared with 38 percent of independents and 18 percent of Democrats.
Will a tea party-driven tidal wave carry Republican candidates on Nov. 2? When 47 percent of survey respondents identify themselves as Republicans (a slight increase from previous years), it wouldn't take much of a surge to help the GOP in close races.
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