The Tea Party has become a political Rorschach test. To supporters, it’s a grassroots citizens' movement trying to rein in irresponsible spending and the growth of government, and return the Republicans to their Goldwater roots. To opponents, it’s a sinister Astroturf effort empowering both social and fiscal-issue conservative populists on the far-right, pumping up hyper-partisanship through hate and fear.
Gallery: 15 Races Dominated by the Tea Party
To test the Tea Party’s true influence on the national debate, The Daily Beast decided to employ its new technological tool, the Election Oracle, which contains innovative ways of measuring the buzz each candidate is getting online by tracking use of the terms being used in blogs, message boards, Twitter, and comments sections. It’s a gauge of the digital grassroots conversation, a new metric that can help analyze the state of play behind the poll numbers.
So think of this as a real-time measure of where the Tea Party is getting the most buzz, either pro or con, and driving the debate.
• Election Oracle: Predictions for All the Hot RacesWhat follows is a list of the 15 competitive races in the nation where the term “Tea Party” is dominating the conversation—literally. As in, it’s being used in more than 50 percent of the online conversations about the campaign over the past two weeks. The results may surprise you—but it also offers a very real-time window into the movement. One that will play out over the next four weeks—specifically whether this passion translates into wins.
John Avlon's new book Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America is available now by Beast Books both on the Web and in paperback. He is also the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and a CNN contributor. Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.