The Battle for America 2010: In Houston, Saturday Is Time for Tea

The Battle for America 2010 is being fought in homes, businesses, in block walks and phone banks and gatherings large and small from one end of America to the other. Across the country, the Tea Party phenomenon has not only made this year's midterms fascinating, it's made them unique.  There has never been a movement quite like the Tea Party, which can attract larger and more energetic crowds than either major political party. The Tear Party movement exists and thrives outside both political parties, is angry with both political parties, but thus far has no designs to become a political party itself.  The Tea Party is working within the system, to change and shape the GOP by getting its brand of candidates past the Republican primaries and into the general election to take down big-spending left-wing Democrats.

And they're making a big difference.  In Nevada, the Tea Party's GOP candidate for Senate, Sharron Angle, told Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to "man up" before she crushed him in their only debate.  In Florida, the Tea Party's preferred candidate for Senate, Marco Rubio, has a solid lead on both the Democratic candidate and the ex-Republican Rubio knocked off in the primary.  After November 2, the GOP caucus in Congress will have a distinctive Tea flavor.

In Houston, the Tea Party is hoping to use the next three weeks to keep Texas in conservative hands and send a message to Washington to stop spending so much, stop taxing so much, and stop taking over everything in sight.  Texas is very friendly territory to that message.  In the past month, Texas has become an even deeper shade of red.  Republican Gov. Rick Perry, a frequent Tea Party speaker, holds a strong lead in both the polls and the cash arms race over his liberal Democratic rival, Bill White.  Rep. Chet Edwards, the Democrat with the distinction of holding the strongest GOP seat occupied by a Democrat in the entire country, is badly trailing his Republican challenger, Bill Flores.  Other congressional races around the state are moving inexorably toward the Republicans.  Even seats previously thought safe for the Democrats, such as Lloyd Doggett's south of Austin, have come into play. (Doggett's Republican challenger, Dr. Donna Campbell, is gaining ground in the polls.)  Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar even launched a panicky "October surprise" mail piece against his GOP opponent, Bryan Underwood, this past week.