The political story of 2010 wasthe rise of the teaparty.
[Ron] Paul is less a candidate thana “cause”. . . The other candidateshad to pretend they were happy withtheir [New Hampshire] results. Paulwas genuinely delighted with his,because, after a quarter-century in thewilderness, he’s within reach of put-ting his cherished cause on the map.Libertarianism will have gone fromthe fringes—those hopeless, pathet-ic third-party runs—to a position of prominence in a major party.
, January 12, 2012The surprise of the 2012 Republican pres-idential election cycle is that despite strongopposition to President Barack Obama, Re-publicans’ enthusiasm for their own candi-dates has remained low. After the first eightcontests, turnout was down 10 percent from2008.
Mitt Romney, the long-presumedfront-runner, has inspired little enthusiasmamong the grass roots. Tea party supporters,who represented more than half of all Repub-lican primary voters, never unified around a single candidate. Candidates surpassed 50percent of the tea party vote in only threeprimary states: Romney won 70 percent of tea party supporters in his home state of Massachusetts; Newt Gingrich won 51 per-cent of tea party support in his home stateof Georgia; and Romney won 60 percent of tea party supporters in Virginia, where only two candidates appeared on the ballot. RickSantorum never won more than 50 percentof the tea party vote in any primary.
And, wewitnessed ephemeral surges for several othercandidates, including Michele Bachmann,Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. Yet steady interest in Ron Paul has out-stripped all other candidates by some mea-sures. The Google Politics and Electionsteam reported that “Ron Paul” was the toppolitical search term of the election, evenbeating out “Tim Tebow” and “Christmas”in December 2011.
Political pros admiredPaul’s well-organized grass roots operationin Iowa and New Hampshire. Paul has cap-tured the imagination of many young peo-ple, winning young voters under 30 in a thirdof the primaries and caucuses in exit pollsthus far and placing second in another third.
Long after it had become obvious that RonPaul would not be the nominee, he contin-ued to gather ever larger crowds. During thefirst week of April, Paul drew an estimated6,000 supporters to a campaign stop at theUniversity of California, Los Angeles,
and8,500 at the University of California, Berke-ley,
his largest crowds of the campaign. Thisoccurred the same week Romney won theWisconsin primary, making his nominationall but inevitable. As
colum-nist Charles Krauthammer recognized early,Paul may lose and still catapult libertarianideas into the mainstream of the RepublicanParty.The political story of 2010 was the rise of the tea party. A top political story of the 2012presidential cycle is this curious persistenceof the libertarian supporters of Ron Paul, de-spite his failure to win a single primary con-test. But these may well be two parts to thesame story—a story of the emergence of a lib-ertarian constituency that has planted rootsin the tea party but traces its history backto frustrations with the Bush administra-tion since at least 2008, if not before. Indeed,
veteran election analyst DanBalz put it this way: “Paul was . . . tea party when tea party wasn’t cool.”
Liberals caricature the tea party as thesame old religious right. Conservatives mis-understand it. Establishment Republicansfear it. But given all this political anxiety,and despite hundreds of articles and analy-ses, there is very little agreement on what thetea party is, and where exactly it comes from.In this paper, we argue that the tea party has strong libertarian roots and is a libertar-ian influence on the Republican Party. Wetrace the origins of the tea party back to2008, using data analysis techniques of po-litical science. In the first section, we com-