The political climate in America is shaping up into a predictable block. While I know that poll numbers are often unreliable, I believe that trends can definitely be assessed when looking at multiple agencies and a longer timeline.
The most recent Rasmussen poll shows that Obama's SOTU polling bounce is over.
The trends show something that I find interesting. From the numbers, it seems clear to me that there is about 25% of the electorate who is going to stand by Obama for the duration. During President Bush's presidency that number hovered slightly above 30%.
Yet, there is evidence that those who had so much hope in Obama for real Hope and Change and desperately want to approve of his performance bumped that number up to about 45% after the SOTU address. Already, however, it's back down to the 25% that strongly approve of Obama's performance as president. I attribute that to the rhetorical advantage that Obama has always had. His words sound so good to a large body of Americans, but quickly his double speak and hypocritical comments, and realization that things are not getting better sets in and the numbers plummet again.
If Obama won with about 55% of the vote in 2008, that leaves about 10% of the people who voted for him in 2008, who continue to reject him, even after his rhetorical smoothness because of his increasing lack of results. Perhaps those were a 10% block who really wanted to like Bush and McCain, but just felt like there needed to be a change in leadership to heal the nation from all of the partisan bickering.
I really do believe that a lot of Obama's appeal to the center electorate was his promises to remove the deep divide between the left and the right, as well as the hope for a post racial America. In reality, however, the divide has only grown deeper, leaving many of the centrists disenchanted and ready for another change. The Tea Party movement appeals to them b/c it does cross party lines and focuses on a common sense approach to solving our country's ills... a direction guided by the people and not the political elite.
The Tea Party's first national convention in Nashville could be a double edged sword for its reach to the center left. It is very good, in that, it is FINALLY getting some media attention. There is an increasing inability to dismiss the "Tea Partiers" as simply a radical, stupid, fake, dangerous fringe. They have political power and are affecting elections and it's clear that they're here to stay for at least one election cycle - and an important and pivotal one at that.
The danger is that as you let people from various edges of the Tea Party movement get up to the podium with the world watching, their words begin to define what the Tea Party Movement stands for. If they stick to the basics that pull everyone together, it'll be great. OTOH, if people take the opportunity to push their own pet issues, such as immigration and abortion, they risk splintering the united grass roots effort. Because there is no central apparatus, there are many arms of the Tea Party movement. This is healthy, in that, its agenda is being laid by the ground up. It's potentially damaging, in that their message takes on different emphasis in the minds of the people attending the Town Halls and such, even if they aren't expressed in the signs at the protests. They are united by anger and fear of the direction our country is going. They want the power to be returned to the people. They want the Constitution to become the overriding rule book again. They want our debts to be paid. They want to remain a shining light in the world, instead of falling into the same pitfalls of socialism and dictatorial government that so many other nations have taken or are stuck in. If they stick to that message, there is a large net that are and will get behind.
Basically, the Tea Party has a Back to the Basics message. Return to the Constitution; strengthen basic freedoms; return to a true separation of powers; keep a limited government; remember that our country actually has a republic and federalist model - the House represents us, not their own agenda and states get all powers not specifically given to the federal government. That would be a good place to start for a unifying message.
Let's hope and pray that the message doesn't get distorted in a way that splinters the unifying message.