Perhaps tuning in to NBC's "The Chris Matthews Show" isn't high on your list of priorities, outside of wanting the chance to catch Dan Rather suggest something bizarre like President Barack Obama couldn't sell watermelons. However, if you had watched the March 28 broadcast of the program, you would have found the show's roster of panelists think the Tea Party movement is a black mark on the Republican Party, as far as it pertains to unseating the Democratic majority in Congress.
Matthews' show featured NBC Capitol Hill correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, Newsweek's senior Washington correspondent Howard Fineman, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger and Atlantic senior editor Andrew Sullivan. In the aftermath of the passage of ObamaCare into law, some have suggested this was a defeat for the Tea Party movement. Matthews asked if the mere existence of this movement was a plus or minus for the Republican Party.
"OK, all things considered, if there were no Tea Party crowd, we never saw them demonstrate - would that be better for the Republican Party, or is the Tea Party a plus for them in November, winning elections?" Matthews asked.
Although not a total, the answers from Matthews' panel showed the deck was stacked in one direction, the lone of exception being Kelly O'Donnell, who only conceded the Tea Party association would be a bad thing, but the energy it created was a positive:
O'DONNELL: Well I think they need the energy. They don't want the brand name "tea party."
MATTHEWS: Is it a plus?
O'DONNELL: Overall on the energy side
FINEMAN: No, overall it's a negative and that negative - and that negative, if the tea partiers continue to project the image they've been projecting over the last few days, it's a net negative. In the general election, for the Republicans, it's a net negative.
BORGER: I think it looks positive now, but I'm going to agree with Howard. I think in the end, it's going to backfire on Republicans because it could energize Democrats.
SULLIVAN: After '97, when the Tories lost in Britain, they got tagged as the nasty party and they are still trying to get out from under that 13 years later.