Like any game of chicken, the government shutdown was always an all-or-nothing proposition for the tea party. Now, with a deal about to be done, it’s pretty clear that what they got was nothing.
The movement, running out of steam after the 2012 election, got a shot in the arm after the IRS scandal broke, then roared back to life to support Ted Cruz’s defund-or-shutdown movement over Obamacare. For a moment this fall, it even felt like a bit like 2010.
But unlike 2010, when the tea party helped Republicans win 60 House seats, this time the movement has only hurt itself—perhaps mortally. A new Pew survey out today shows just how bad the damage is. The tea party is less popular than ever, with nearly half of Americans holding a negative view of the movement and just 30 percent of Republicans saying they view it favorably. Just a third of GOPers say the tea-party movement is even part of their own party.
Much of this collapse has happened since June, suggesting it was the government shutdown that killed the beast. Democrats, Republicans, and independents all agree here.
And there’s now a huge split between tea party-Republicans and non-tea-party Republicans, reflecting the split already visible in Congress.
Nowhere in the Pew poll is this more evident than in the numbers for Ted Cruz, who emerged from obscurity to become the de facto leader of the right wing of his party. While his favorable rating among tea-party Republicans has risen since July by 27 points—from 47 to 74—his unfavorable numbers have risen 15 points among non-tea-party Republicans over the same period, from 16 to 31 percent.
Democrats were dinged, too, and Republicans even more so, but the tea party got the worst of it.