Is the Tea Party on the decline or not? Don't ask the New York Times. Political reporter Michael Shear wrote on Monday that "Tea Party Hopes to Gain Larger Stage in Election With Romney's Pick." The text box: "A movement already energized by a string of electoral victories." But in May, a Times reporter wrote that the Tea Party "has lost momentum."
For two years, Tea Party lawmakers in the House have been the stubborn barbarians at the gate, strong-arming their often reluctant Republican colleagues by refusing to compromise on spending, taxes, debt or social policy.
But Representative Paul D. Ryan’s ascendancy to the No. 2 spot on the Republican ticket is a signal event for a movement that counts him as one of their own. If Mitt Romney wins in November, a Tea Party favorite will be a heartbeat from the Oval Office
More than that, Mr. Ryan is now unquestionably the face of the Tea Party caucus in Washington, and his success is certain to embolden House lawmakers whose proudly unyielding approach to governance has contributed to legislative gridlock.
Once considered a fringe of the conservative coalition, Tea Party lawmakers are now indisputably at the core of the modern Republican Party.
Mr. Romney’s emergence as the presumptive Republican nominee earlier this year raised questions about whether Tea Party supporters would find themselves marginalized in an election season dominated by the party’s establishment.
In fact, the movement has expanded. Tea Party voters in Texas helped the Senate candidate Ted Cruz defeat David Dewhurst, the state’s lieutenant governor. In Indiana, the Tea Party ousted the veteran Senator Richard G. Lugar. And in Wisconsin, activists helped Gov. Scott Walker survive his recall election.
But back on May 1, Times reporter Raymond Hernandez dismissed the Tea Party's influence in a story on House rematches: "The rematches are being driven largely by Democratic comeback candidates and reflect a simple calculation by many in the party: that the Tea Party sweep of 2010 can be undone with the strong turnout that President Obama’s re-election bid is expected to generate....Over all, Democrats see a much better climate for their rerun candidates, particularly as Mr. Obama’s campaign fires up its get-out-the-vote operations in all 50 states and as the Tea Party, which helped propel Republicans to power, has lost momentum."
As recently as June 20 the Times was still suggesting Tea Party influence was on the wane, posing this question in its regular online "Room for Debate" symposium: "What Happened to the Tea Party?"
In 2010, the Tea Party was all the rage. Pundits were speculating on what effect the movement would have on state and federal elections. But we are well into the presidential campaign season, the conventions are just around the corner, and yet the Tea Party is strangely silent.