Dickerson: Dems Hope Tea Partiers Lose Steam

Supporters walk past a Tea Party Express bus at the "Showdown in Searchlight" rally in Searchlight, Nev., Saturday, March 27, 2010. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Supporters walk past a Tea Party Express bus at the "Showdown in Searchlight" rally in Searchlight, Nev., Saturday, March 27, 2010.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
On Saturday Tea Party activists kicked off a 42-city protest tour against the passage of health care reform, with a rally in the Nevada hometown of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The worry for Democrats, CBS News political analyst John Dickerson says, is that conservative and Tea Party activists are energized.

The activists' key argument, Dickerson says, "is that legislators in Washington and the president aren't listening to them — and now that the health care legislation has passed, that's a perfect piece of evidence in that complaint.

"So Democrats are worried that the conservatives are more exercised and they'll turn out at the polls in November. What Democrats can only hope for is that Tea Party activists somehow overreach, and that ends up becoming a stain on the Republican Party" [as witness the efforts by some in the GOP, such as South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint on "Face the Nation" yesterday, to distance themselves from the more virulent, violent threats from some protesters].

And, if (as Democrats hope) the health care reforms just enacted turn out to be popular with the general public, some of the steam may come out of the Tea Party movement, and Republicans who fought the bill might find themselves in the target.

"That certainly is [their] hope," Dickerson said. "The polling right now does not give the Obama administration a lot of encouragement on that front. The problem is that people are nervous about change and this is an enormous change in their lives. And then in addition to that, they saw a political process over a year that didn't give them much reason to be more confident. So now that it's passed, the president is out there trying to explain to people what's in this bill. The problem is, people really just don't believe it yet."

The most prominent of the speakers at Saturday's Tea Party rally, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, also campaigned in Arizona for her 2008 running mate Sen. John McCain and against his more conservative opponent in the Republican primary. "You've got to give her props for loyalty," suggested "Early Show" anchor Maggie Rodriguez.

"They have maintained their relationship even though there has been this extraordinary, out-in-the-open feud between Palin and lots of the top members of McCain's campaign," Dickerson said. "McCain had to say he still stood behind his former leaders. But all water under bridge: She's trying to help McCain in a very tough race."

For more from John Dickerson click on the video below.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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