The Des Moines Register looked at the Tea Party movement in their latest Iowa Poll should make its critics take note.  The first is that a third of Iowans surveyed support the movement.  Considering how relatively new the movement is it’s current level of support is impressive.  Forty-five percent say they do not support, but again if you look at how mainstream media have portrayed the Tea Party movement (as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) that shouldn’t be surprising either.  Twenty-two percent of Iowans are not sure.

The most surprising feature (for critics, not supporters) is the make up of those who support this movement.  The majority are those who identify themselves as being independent with 49%.  Those who self-identify as Republicans make up 34% with those who identify themselves as Democrats making up 17%.  That last number should not be dismissed.

Katie Obradovich said that Democrats should take note:

Democrats around the country have disparaged the Tea Party demonstrations, generally dismissing its supporters as wing nuts. The Iowa Poll results in today’s Register might change that, at least in Iowa. It shows one-third of Iowans consider themselves supporters of the Tea Party movement, regardless of party affiliation. Only about a third of these are Republicans. And they seem very inclined to vote.

Republicans so far have given far more attention than Democrats to this rather amorphous collection of Iowans who seem to distrust the party establishment and seek to counter powerful interests that influence both sides of the aisle…

…Democrats, as the party in power, have an even more difficult case to make that they should stay in control. Ignoring or insulting the 31 percent of independents and 21 percent of Democrats who support the Tea Party will not save their jobs.

Some may what to be dismissive of the 17% number, but as far as statewide polls go this had a large sample size – with 805 being surveyed.  Among this group, the Register notes an a definite anti-incumbent mood:

The poll suggests tea party supporters could benefit Republicans in November if the GOP can persuade voters its candidates will rein in spending.

Tea party supporters are more energized than the average likely Iowa voter. Three-quarters of the group’s supporters say they will definitely vote, about even with the 73 percent of Republicans who say the same, compared with 65 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents.

With an earlier poll that shows Iowa as being a center-right state, especially on fiscal matters, spells problems for Legislative Democrats and Governor Chet Culver as they struggle with a budget shortfall that many see is not just a result of decreasing revenue, but fiscal mismanagement and overspending.

Senator Tom Harkin wants to dismiss the Tea Party movement as a radical fringe group, “Unless the tea party starts to moderate its views a little bit and becomes more mainstream, they are going to continue to become a fringe, radical group.”  But based on recent polling I think it is safe to say that Senator Harkin represents the fringe element.

Perhaps it will take a 2010 blowout for Harkin and the Iowa Democratic Party to realize it.

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