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Posted at 3:35 PM ET, 01/31/2011

Poll: Americans want GOP to listen to the tea party

By Rachel Weiner

About seven in 10 adults say it's important for Republican leaders in Congress take the tea party movement's positions and objectives into account, according to a new Gallup poll.

Among Republicans, tea party support remains, not surprisingly, high.

In the Gallup survey, 53 percent of self identified Republicans say it is "very" important for the Republican congressional leadership to listen to the tea party while 35 percent call it "somewhat" important. Nine percent of GOPers call it either not very or not at all important.

The growth of the tea party movement was, generally, a boon for Republicans in 2010 as it helped drive voters who largely shared their views to the polls. There were notable exceptions -- Sharron Angle's primary victory in Nevada, Christine O'Donnell's win in Delaware -- that turned Republican opportunities into general election losses.

The O'Donnell and Angle situations presaged the potential headaches for Republican leaders in Congress as they seek to harmoniously incorporate tea party activists into the party.

Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) official response to the State of the Union was a straightforward, generally well-received outline of Republican principles. But Ryan was forced to share media attention with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), whose unofficial rebuttal, streamed live on the Tea Party Express website and broadcast by CNN, drew scads of press -- albeit it primarily for for its odd camera angles.

Even Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), one of the tea party's biggest champions in Congress, has been struggling to respond to the demands of tea party activists.

At the first meeting of the new tea party caucus, the South Carolina Republican found himself admitting that "what seems doable here is not enough." Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), all propelled into office last year at least in part due to tea party backing, have all declined to join.

"Obviously it's disappointing," said Amy Kremer, the Tea Party Express chairwoman. "The people in the movement are wondering why they're not standing with these other tea party conservatives."

How establishment Republicans handle the tea party element both among Members of Congress who align themselves with the movement and with its activist base will be critically important to how seriously they can challenge President Obama -- and other Democrats up and down the ballot in 2012.

By Rachel Weiner  | January 31, 2011; 3:35 PM ET
Categories:  Republican Party  
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