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Report: Tea Party expands influence even in Democratic-leaning districts

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Tea Party,John Boehner,2012 Elections,2014 Elections,Mitt Romney,House Republicans

Despite national polls showing dwindling voter support for the Tea Party, House Republicans are embracing the movement’s issues tighter than ever, setting up a potential clash with voters in districts that lean Democratic, according to a new study of key House votes.

On average, said the study provided in advance to Secrets, House Republicans in Democratic-leaning districts or those that voted for President Obama over Republican Mitt Romney in 2012 sided with the Tea Party about 81 percent of the time on key votes like defunding Obamacare, blocking an increase of the debt limit and supporting a government shutdown.

“When swing Republicans grumble that [House Speaker John] Boehner should stand up to the Tea Party caucus they should be looking in the mirror,” said Brad Woodhouse, president of the progressive group Americans United for Change, which sponsored the study.

“The beauty of this report,” he added, “is that it doesn't take an ounce of spin -- it comes straight from their own votes and those scored by what are undoubtedly Tea Party groups.”

With the vote scorecard, titled “Tea Stained,” Woodhouse’s group is launching an effort to spotlight Tea Party votes by moderate Republicans and those in Democratic-leaning districts in advance of this year’s midterm elections. Winning some of those districts is the only chance Democrats have of taking back control of the House, though most pollsters see the Republicans staying in charge.

“The ‘Tea Party' -- which is now synonymous with the Republican Party -- is an anvil around the necks of moderate and swing GOP members - and this report ensures that as hard as they try - they can't run from their records,” Woodhouse told Secrets.

The report looks at 47 House members and 48 votes on Tea Party issues to determine a score. The group chose several issues and votes on the scorecards of Tea Party groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks, though Republicans argue that many of the issues are mainstream conservative topics such as ending Obamacare.

The bottom line findings of the Republicans studied:

-- Republicans in swing districts and facing competitive races voted with the Tea Party 81 percent of the time in 2013.

-- On average, Republicans in Democratic-leaning districts voted with the Tea Party 76 percent of the time in 2013.

-- Republicans in districts won by Obama in his 2012 re-election voted with the Tea Party 75 percent of the time.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.