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What Does the Tea Party Think of GOP Candidates?

The Tea Party was clearly instrumental in fueling Republicans’ tremendous success in last year’s election, and Republicans will presumably need strong Tea Party support next year as well if they are to unseat President Obama and repeal Obamacare. So it’s worth asking this question: What does the Tea Party think of the current GOP field?

Here are the respective placements of the eight current candidates (the seven who were on stage Monday night, plus Jon Huntsman) in the Tea Party Presidential Poll:

3. Michele Bachmann (73 percent success rate in head-to-head matchups)
8. Tim Pawlenty (65 percent)
12. Newt Gingrich (59 percent)
13. Herman Cain (58 percent)
15. Rick Santorum (56 percent)
19. Ron Paul (47 percent)
22. Mitt Romney (43 percent)
24. Jon Huntsman (38 percent)

The candidates basically fall into three groupings, with Bachmann by herself in first (8 percentage points ahead of anyone else); Pawlenty, Gingrich, Cain, and Santorum in the middle group; and Paul, Romney, and Huntsman (all at least 9 points behind the middle group) bringing up the rear.

The poll now includes more than 5 million responses across several months, so it’s also worth noting whether there has been any significant movement of late by any candidates who might have gotten off to a slow start. In fact, however, the candidates have moved very little since I wrote about the poll three months ago, at which time there were fewer than 2 million responses.  Bachmann has subsequently moved the most, having moved up 3 percentage points and one spot (trading places with Jim DeMint).

This minimal level of movement seems to suggest that Tea Party voters have likely been paying attention all along and haven’t dramatically changed their minds about the prospective candidates. It also suggests that they aren’t likely to change their minds dramatically at any time in the near future.

Paul Ryan (77 percent) and Chris Christie (75 percent) continue to run 1st and 2nd in the Tea Party poll. Sarah Palin is 7th (67 percent) and Rick Perry 11th (62 percent).

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