The Tea Party movement (TPM) is probably only about 10 to 20 percent of the national electorate, but it has held a veto power over debt talks. Its influence reflects its strategic location. TPM support is concentrated in the Republican Party, they are active and can produce a primary. TPM serves as a brake on Republican representatives’ normal instinct to follow their leaders and compromise.
Michele Bachmann, one of the most TPM-identified candidates, has about 16 percent of Republican Party support in national polls, with Herman Cain and Ron Paul combining for another 20 percent. Hence, the TPM may represent about a third of the Republican voters.
Another reason TPM has outsized influence is because its issues of reduced debt and less government spending are likely to be dominant in 2012. Republicans will, of course, run on the issues, but even Democrats and especially the President will have to give, with greater and lesser levels of sincerity, support.