Candidates with strong Tea Party support are doing well enough across the nation that they could end up with a "sizable caucus" in Congress that's able to push the movement's conservative agenda, The New York Times says.
As three NPR correspondents will report on Saturday's All Things Considered, though, just how well a Tea Party-backed contender is doing can vary greatly by House district. Here are some highlights from their reports:
— From Florida's 22nd congressional district just north of Miami, NPR's Greg Allen says the battle between incumbent Democratic Rep. Ron Klein and Tea Party/Republican Allen West is a tight race. West is "one of the election season’s more fiery candidates," Greg reports.
Alan Diaz/Associated Press
Republican Allen West, left, and Rep. Ron Klein, D-Fla.after a debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010.
A former Army lieutenant colonel who was forced to retire after an incident in Iraq when he fired a gun near a detainee's head, West says it's time to fight back "against a tyrannical government." Klein has responded that West is an extremist.
They've traded jabs over an IRS lien against West, which Klein says is a sign that the Republican has "the wrong values for South Florida." West says the problem built up while he was serving in Afghanistan and that if Klein "wants to attack my wife who was back here trying to maintain a household with our two daughters while I was over protecting him, that’s where I have a problem."
— From Louisville, WFPL's Gabe Bullard says that the race in Kentucky's third congressional district may not go the way some would expect. Tea Party-supported Republican Rand Paul is ahead in his race for the Senate — and that high-profile statewide-race could be expected to draw in many voters who will also support Tea Party candidates "down the ballot."
But Tea Party/Republican Todd Lally may not get that kind of a boost in his effort to unseat Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth in the Third. It was the only Kentucky district that President Obama won in 2008, and Kentucky political observers such as University of Louisville political science professor Jasmine
Farrier think Democrats there may be energized enough by their opposition to Paul to also come out to vote for Yarmuth.
— Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio in the far north of the Empire State says there's evidence in New York's 23rd congressional district that a Tea Party candidate may actually help a freshman Democrat hold on to his seat in Congress.
As Brian reports, "last month, after a bitter Republican primary, Matt Doheny edged out the Tea Party’s hand-picked candidate Doug Hoffman. But Hoffman refused to step aside, insisting that he would run as a third-party Conservative."
Even though Hoffman has since dropped out of the race, Brian says, "Doheny was forced for weeks to juggle a two-front campaign." And, Hoffman's name will still be on the ballot — on the Conservative Party line. For incumbent Democratic Rep. Bill Owens, that's a huge break, Brian says: "A poll released this week by the independent Siena Research Institute found that a lot of voters don’t seem to know that Hoffman is out of the race." Owens enjoyed an 11-point lead. And even after being told Hoffman had dropped out, fewer than half of his voters in the poll said they would support Republican Doheny.