A Tea Party Party?

A couple weeks back, Matt Steinglass imagined the Tea Party as a third-party:

I think tea-party Republicans would have a better shot at launching a sustainable third party than we’ve seen in America in a long time. Not that it would be a particularly good shot; the segregationist Dixiecrats had a similar combination of congressional power, loyal voter blocs and a unifying ideology when they tried to set up the States’ Rights Democratic Party in 1948, and it didn’t last past that one election. Still, for anyone who does want to see American politics shaken up through the entrance of a third party, it’s worth thinking about the congressional-revolt strategy in combination with the bottom-up one.

Yesterday, David Frum entertained a split between the GOP and the Tea Party:

Right now, tea party extremism contaminates the whole Republican brand. It’s a very interesting question whether a tea party bolt from the GOP might not just liberate the party to slide back to the political center — and liberate Republicans from identification with the Sarah Palins and the Ted Cruzes who have done so much harm to their hopes over the past three election cycles.

Nate Cohn dashes David’s hopes:

According to a July Pew Research survey, Tea Party Republicans make up nearly half (49 percent) of the Republican primary electorate and fully 37 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners.

So long as Democrats remain modestly unified, it is not conceivable that Republicans could compensate for the loss of anything near 37 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners with gains among moderates and independents. Once a Republican realized there aren’t enough opportunities to win without the tea party, the centrist fantasy would come to an end. Republicans would immediately tack back to their right, in an effort to consolidate the Republican coalition.

Larison likewise dismisses Frum’s dream:

Even if [the GOP] lost just 10% of its current level of support, it would be doomed to near-permanent minority status. It’s true that Republicans nominated some weak candidates in 2010 and 2012 and lost races that could have been won, but the harm done to the Republican “brand” predated those elections by many years and had nothing to do with the Palins and Cruzes. Republicans in 2008 were doomed by the Iraq war, the financial crisis, the extraordinary unpopularity of Bush, and a bad nominee of such poor judgment that he thought Palin was an acceptable running mate. For all the mistakes that Tea Partiers have made in the last few years, they weren’t the ones that drove the party into the ditch.