The Tea Party movement is supposed to be the engine driving Republicans' push for sharp cuts to spending and reform entitlements. Representative Paul Ryan's 2012 budget, which passed the House last week, phases out Medicare for people under 55 and turns Medicaid into block grants. But it turns out that Tea Partiers, like most Americans, strongly oppose cutting Medicare and Medicaid. A new McClatchy-Marist poll shows 70 percent of "Tea Party supporters" oppose cutting those programs--and 80 percent of registered voters agree.
So though The New Republic's Jonathan Chait has argued that "the Ryan budget represents the victory of the Tea Party mentality over mainstream conservatism within the Republican Party," it looks like Ryan's plan doesn't represent the activists, either. Slate's Dave Weigel calls the Marist poll a "nice present" for Democrats, and "pretty ugly numbers" for Republicans. He adds: "If Democrats can keep portraying the cuts as worse than they are--this was done successfully in the 2005 Social Security fight--there's a win here." For another articulation of this view, recall that even when House Republicans passed Ryan's budget Friday, NBC News' Mark Murray marveled at their political gambit: "Either the normal rules of American politics have changed, or Republicans have walked into an electoral buzz saw--on a Medicare plan that won't pass the 112th Congress and that many of them didn't campaign on in 2010."