The Republican Party's favorability was at a record low of 28 percent in a Gallup Poll conducted Oct. 3-6. That was down 10 percentage points from the previous month and 15 points below Democrats. The tea party is less popular now than ever, according to a poll released Oct. 15 by the Pew Research Center. Forty-nine percent of U.S. adults have an unfavorable opinion of the movement, while 30 percent have a favorable one.
The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan Washington-based group that tracks races, changed the ratings of 15 U.S. House seats Thursday, all but one in favor of the prospects for Democrats. After three vacancies are filled in the 435-member House, Democrats are expected to need a net pickup of 17 seats to win back the majority they lost in the 2010 elections.
Both sides are using the Oct. 16 vote on a bipartisan agreement to reopen the government and lift the nation's $16.7 trillion debt ceiling as a barometer for choosing their targets in next year's elections.
In the Senate, 18 of 46 Republicans voted against the final deal. The opponents included Sens. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Pat Roberts of Kansas and John Cornyn of Texas, each of whom face primary contests. In the House, Republicans cast all the 144 votes opposing the accord.
"They voted 'no' because they understand this is a rallying cry" and that backing the agreement could be used against them, Tom Davis, a former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman and now director of federal government affairs for Deloitte Consulting, said in an interview. "This has not helped Republicans. It's hurt the Republican brand."
To improve their odds, tea party leaders are fine-tuning their strategy by targeting incumbents in states where Democrats have little or no chance of winning in the general election. In 2012 and 2010, the movement nominated weak or flawed Senate candidates in Indiana, Missouri, Delaware and Nevada who were defeated in the November general elections, dashing Republicans' chances for taking over the chamber.