Kristin Soltis, at NRO’s Corner, has a thoughtful analysis of the effect of the Tea Party on the Senate races as a whole. She concludes with some interesting numbers:
People — mostly Democrats — will make the case that this election had the outcome it did because a depressed Democratic base stayed home while a Republican base turned out in droves. But compare it to the previous midterm, 2006: 36 percent of voters were Republican and 38 percent were Democrats. In 2010, 36 percent of voters were Republican and 36 percent were Democrats. A slight drop-off, but not enough to explain one of the most historic waves ever to wash GOPers into the House. This really came down to independents. This wasn’t about tactics, it was about broad persuasion across the country.
In 2006, Republicans lost independents 39 to 57, an 18-point deficit. In 2010, Republicans won independents 55 to 39, a 16-point advantage. That’s the swing where wave elections are won and lost. And it is that swing that handed the House to the Republicans last night.
Comparing the voter registration of participants, on a percentage basis, in the 2006 and 2010 elections may be problematic at the margin because voter registration patterns may have shifted in those years (I’m not really sure about this point). But Soltis’s larger point stands, and needs to be remembered.