According to a series of recent polls, the latest Washington debacle over the debt ceiling and the accompanying government shutdown has badly damaged the Republican Party and its image. A NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken just last week found public favorability for the GOP standing at a mere 24 percent, while another Gallup poll showed public support for Republicans at record lows. Even several prominent Republicans have publicly admitted that the government shutdown and the debt ceiling debate has harmed the party’s image. Faring even worse in public opinion is the Tea Party. Their favorability stands a few notches below where the Republican Party polls as a whole. Yet despite these low approval ratings, or perhaps more accurately, as a result of them, the Tea Party may actually benefit from this recent showdown, even as it could cost Republicans seats nationally. Here’s how:
With their favorability cratering to all-time lows, and with the public displeased with the current state of politics in general, there is every reason to believe that voter turnout in the 2014 midterm elections will be low, particularly amongst Republicans. After all, with rare historical exceptions, primaries are usually low turnout affairs, especially midterm primaries. Those who do go to the polls, tend to be the more passionate bunch, who also typically gravitate towards the ideological fringe. For Republicans, that means Tea Party supporters.
Of course, merely having your supporters turnout to the polls means nothing, if who they are voting for are more centrist and reasonable candidates. As we know, however, such candidates are a dying breed within the Republican Party, and already, the Tea Party looks to run its largest slate of candidates yet. For instance, in Texas alone, some 16 of the state’s 22 incumbent Republican House members are already facing Tea Party challenges. And its much the same across the country. The extent to which Republican House incumbents are capable of surviving these challenges, depends greatly on voter turnout. Unfortunately for those incumbents, turnout in such elections has historically been low, and will likely remain so throughout the 2014 primaries.