If Republicans capture the Senate this year, it probably won't be due to the same grassroots movement that swept them into the House majority four years ago.
Thom Tillis and his wife Susan Tillis greet supporters at an election night rally in Charlotte, N.C., after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
A new Gallup poll found that Republican support for the Tea Party has dropped 41 percent, down from 61 percent support in November 2010 when the GOP took control of the House of Representatives.
That seems to be reflected in establishment Republican primary victory this week over Tea Party challengers.
On Tuesday, Thom Tillis, the candidate widely perceived as representing the GOP establishment in the North Carolina Republican Senate primary, easily beat Greg Brannon, who was positioned as the Tea Party's choice. Tillis will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November.
Meanwhile, the Tea Party opponent for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – Matt Bevin – appears to be struggling to gain traction ahead of the Kentucky primary at the end of the month. In Mississippi, incumbent Republican Sen. Thad Cochran is pulling ahead of Tea Party insurgent Chris McDaniel, but the race is still fairly close.
That's a big change from 2010, when now-Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah captured their party's nominations from establishment GOP candidates.
The Gallup poll found that 11 percent of Republicans are actually opponents of the Tea Party, while 48 percent are neither supporters nor opponents. The drop in support for the Tea Party among Republicans coincides with the overall drop in support from all Americans, from 32 percent in November 2010 to just 22 percent now.
That general public support has remained steady at 22 percent since September 2013, however, opposition to the Tea Party has risen to 30 percent of the public, acording to the Gallup poll.
“Tea Party support, more than anything else, appears to substantially correlate with the more straightforward characteristics of being a core, conservative Republican,” Gallup Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport said in a statement.
Thus, these trends may suggest that the GOP is on a more moderate track in general.
Newport said the nomination of Mitt Romney for president in 2012 indicated the overall GOP was moving to the center, but he was cautious about a final verdict.
“The results of several high-profile primary contests later this month will be important indicators of the reality of the Tea Party's influence,” Newport said. “Still, whatever else happens, Tea Party supporters will continue to be a presence in American politics because of their apparent motivation and interest in election outcomes, factors that, more than likely, will translate into support for candidates, and higher Election Day turnout.”