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Party ending for the tea party?

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 9/13/2011, 3:17 p.m.

The low opinion they have of that was glaringly evident when Perry branded Social Security “a ponzi scheme.” The reaction was swift and angry. In a poll by the online investment newsletter “The Street,” the overwhelming majority of respondents flatly denounced the notion that Social Security was a rip-off. Perry and Bachman and tea party leaders’ shouts about knocking down big government all of a sudden take on a different sound when it comes to these programs.

Even some tea party leaders realize they walk a fine and dangerous political line by continuing to overreach. On the eve of the joint CNN and Tea Party Express sponsored GOP presidential candidates debate in New Hampshire, Matt Kibbe, president of Freedom Works flatly warned that a hardline dig the heels in the sand position on political ideals could be the tea party’s “Achilles heel” in the presidential election. This would totally alienate moderate to conservative independents that they got back in the GOP fold in the November midterm elections, and need to keep in the fold to have a fair chance at beating Obama in 2012.

It’s too soon to write an epitaph for the tea party. There are still millions that, despite the consequences of the line-in-the-sand the tea party has drawn, still think the idea of smaller government, caps on spending and debt reduction are noble goals that they’ll go to the barricades to fight for. Many others simply cannot under any circumstances stomach another four years of an Obama administration. But the polls are a telling warning that the days of being the centerpiece of the nation’s political party for the tea party are fast coming to a close.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.