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The Tea Party is less popular than ever, even among Republicans, according to a survey from Pew Research. But the group is still potent within the Republican Party — which means that Sen. Ted Cruz gets a bit of good news on an otherwise bleak day.

"Tea Party" is a necessarily vague affiliation. There are members of Tea Party groups, of course, but Pew largely had to allow poll respondents to self identify. And a lot of Republicans did so.

About four-in-ten (41%) Republicans and Republican leaners agree with the Tea Party movement, while 45% say they have no opinion either way. The percentage agreeing with the Tea Party has declined from its peak of 58% in October of 2010, and has fluctuated around 40% for much of the last year.

In other words, a fairly steady four-in-ten Republicans agree with the Tea Party.

That's significant largely in the context of Sen. Cruz. As we've noted, Cruz's anti-Obamacare crusade was a spectacular failure in the realm of national politics, but it has been a big success for Cruz among the heavily conservative Tea Partiers. He won the straw poll at the Value Voters Summit, and raised over $1 million in the third quarter. But the news gets better with this Pew poll.

Below, the change in Cruz's poll numbers between July and October. At left is the shift in his net approval rating among Tea Party and non-Tea Party Republicans between the two months. (Net approval is the percentage of people who approve of him minus the percentage that disapprove.) At right, the change in those who have an opinion — that is, those who have heard of Ted Cruz.

Net approval change

Awareness change

See what happened? Among non-Tea Party Republicans, Cruz's net approval became negative. Among Tea Partiers it skyrocketed. And Tea Partiers are much more likely to be familiar with Cruz — meaning that a large percentage of the Republican base is aware of who he is and gained a more favorable view of him after the filibuster, etc. People likely to gain a negative view of him are less likely to know who he is. Win, win.

And then it gets even better for Cruz. The graph at right shows how awareness of three Republicans changed for Republican voters between July and October. In the wake of the budget fight everyone learned more about Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Cruz. But Cruz's name recognition soared — making him a better-known name than his ostensible caucus leader.

And then it gets better for him again. Here's how the net approval for all three figures changed between July and October. (Cruz's graph is the same as the one above.)




Not only was Cruz the only Republican leader to see a gain among Tea Party Republicans, but both Boehner and McConnell saw declines that were much more drastic than Cruz's among non-Tea Party Republicans. In other words: The Republican leaders of each chamber's caucus took much more of a hit among members of the party than did Cruz.

The polling was conducted before the shutdown was resolved, of course. (As of writing, it still isn't resolved.) But anyone who thinks that Cruz will be chastened by his defeat is probably very much mistaken. On every metric that matters to a possible contender for the party's presidential nomination in 2016, Cruz is excelling.

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