By Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, May 12 (Xinhua) -- The Tea Party, a conservative political force to be reckoned with in U.S. politics in 2010, is not expected to have as much impact on this year's mid-term Congressional elections due to its declining influence, experts said.
The movement, a right-leaning wing of the Republican Party (GOP) comprising conservatives, libertarians and populists, gained steam in the Congressional elections four years ago when it grabbed headlines nationwide after followers staged large anti-debt and anti-tax protests.
"The Tea Party has waned in influence but still is well represented in Congress. Its policy influence will last longer than its electoral power. This year, it has lost many of the GOP primaries to establishment candidates," said Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
Indeed, it is looking less and less likely that a Tea Party candidate will end any sitting Republican's career in the same fashion that happened to Republicans Mike Castle and Robert Bennett, who were ousted by Tea Party-backed candidates in the 2010 mid-term Congressional elections, said Christopher Galdieri, assistant professor at the Saint Anselm College.
"But I wouldn't say the Tea Party has lost its influence," Galdieri told Xinhua, adding that while key Republicans like Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham are likely to survive primary challenges from their right in 2014, they are able to do so because they have adopted the sorts of policy positions that the Tea Party has espoused.
"The Tea Party may not elect or nominate many candidates this year, relative to 2010 and 2012, but virtually every Republican officeholder has moved rightward to survive or head off potential or actual primary challenges. That is not an inconsiderable amount of influence," he said.
Meanwhile, the GOP support for the Tea Party is down to 41 percent, dramatically lower than a few years ago when 61 percent of Republicans backed the party, a Gallup poll released Thursday found.
About four in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents classify themselves as supporters of the Tea Party, while 11 percent are opponents and 48 percent are neither, the poll found.
Opposition to the Tea Party in the general population has returned to its all-time high -- suggesting that the party will have less potential to affect elections this year than was the case in the last midterm Congressional elections in 2010, Gallup found.
Tea Party's support, more than anything else, appears to substantially correlate with the more straightforward characteristics of being a core, conservative Republican. Thus, these trends may suggest that the GOP is on a more moderate track in general, Gallup found.
Clearly Mitt Romney's presidential nomination in 2012 was evidence of waning Tea Party's support, and currently the party cannot even claim majority support of the GOP base, further hindering its influence to remake the party in its own image, Gallup found.
Still, Tea Party supporters will continue to be a presence in the U.S. politics because of their apparent motivation and interest in election outcomes, factors that, more than likely, will translate into support for candidates and higher Election Day turnout, Gallup said.