By Becky Hogan
The Tea Party—known for its commitment to limited government, reduced government spending, and repealing Obamacare–is largely credited for helping Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections.
But many claim that the Tea Party movement has been on the decline since President Obama was re-elected and Republicans failed to take control of the Senate in 2012.
News coverage of the Tea party members of the Senate in 2013, however, still far outpaces Democrats and Republicans.
We averaged national media mentions of Senators by party, breaking Tea Party senators into their own category. Included in the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus are Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Tim Scott, and Jerry Moran.
The Senate is an interesting case because it’s not only Democratically-controlled, but also has had an ambitious legislative agenda this year on immigration reform, gun control, and the farm bill to name a few.
So is the Tea Party really in decline?
In February, Tea Partiers had their narrowest lead over Republicans when Marco Rubio gave the Republican response to the State of the Union. Although Paul gave the Tea Party Response shortly after, he only received approximately one-third of Rubio’s 90,000 mentions.
Tea Party Senators received the most mentions of any month with over three times as many mentions as other Republicans. Paul dominated national media coverage with his 13-hour filibuster on John Brennan’s CIA nomination. During his stand on the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid stood with Paul which also garnered a lot of attention.
June—the month that the Senate passed a bill on immigration reform— was the only month that Democrat Senators were mentioned more times that Republicans. Interestingly, however, Frank Lautenberg received the most mentions of any Senator in June following his death. Still, the Tea Party received 56% more mentions than Democrats that month.
There’s no question that Rand Paul is leading the charge in the Senate. Of all Tea Party Senators, Paul had the most media mentions month after month. Ted Cruz and Tim Scott have also had impressive showing, though not nearly the presence that Paul has.
Also of note is Senator John McCain who has received the most mentions of any non-Tea Party Republican in the first six months of 2013, outpacing Mitch McConnell by over 8,200 mentions.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called the Tea Party movement in the Senate “obstructionist” on numerous occasions in 2013. And perhaps the claim is true because they’ve garnered a ton of media attention compared to other senators in what has been one of the most unproductive Congresses to date.
Whether the media fixation on the Tea Party is due to the caucus’ intent to block the Democratic agenda or the ongoing rift in the GOP between its establishment and ultra-conservative members, the Tea Party is still alive and trending in the US Senate.