For many years, both Democrats and Republicans have tried to paint their opponents as "extremists." That is to say, so far out of the mainstream that they should not be considered serious candidates.
Sometimes the term, "extremism," is justified. The Democrats are largely correct when they claim that Congressman Todd Akin, who is trying to defeat Missouri Democrat Senator Claire McCaskell, is an extremist. He is the one who, while explaining his position on abortion, referred to "legitimate rape" and claimed that when raped, a woman can shut down her body so that she does not become pregnant.
Probably close to 90 percent of the American people think that this is so far out that Akin deserves to be labeled as an extremist -- and possibly even a "kook." However, this does not mean that Akin's views on other issues necearrily are crazy or extreme. Likewise, former Senator Rick Santorum's assertion that the use of contraceptives is wrong also is an extremist position and probably only about 3 percent of the people agree with him. This does not mean that Santorum's views on all other subjects are extreme.
A group being smeared as "extremists" is the Tea Party.
The vast majority of Tea Party members are American patriots whose mission is to defend the traditional freedoms that our forefathers enjoyed.
Since Tea Party groups espouse the same conservative ideas as most Republicans do, the Democrats are trying to paint both as extremists. While there are some individual members of any group who may be extremists, the vast majority of Republicans and Tea Partyers are well within the realm of typical, genuine, patriotic Americans.
On the other side, the typical Democrat who lives down the street is patriotic and "believes in America." (Seems to me that that is somebody's campaign theme?) But the vast majority of Democrat leaders believe in a federal government which is amassing more and more power, which is regulating and taxing us to death, which is not subject to the constraints and limits laid down by the Constitution, and whose major mission in life is to get more power, while limiting the freedoms and choices of individual Americans.