In the wake of last Tuesday’s election there has been much debate on the effect that the Tea Party label had on candidates for office.

Last week, MSNBC’s First Read came out with an analysis of Tea Party candidates showing they only managed to win 32% of their races. Unfortunately, the approach taken by MSNBC, by looking at all races without regard to the competitiveness of the district, has the potential to misrepresent the impact of attaching one’s candidacy to the Tea Party movement.

In order to get a better handle on the true impact of the Tea Party label it is useful to restrict our discussion to a list of Tea Party candidates in races that were considered competitive leading up to the election. The following analysis is based on the list of 138 Tea Party affiliated candidates from the New York Times. In the interest of leaving out sure winners and sure losers, races rated as “Solid Democrat” or “Solid Republican” were excluded from the analysis (67 solid ‘D’ races were dropped and 8 solid ‘R’). This leaves 30 races rated as “Leaning Democrat,” 23 races rated as “Tossup” and 10 races rated as “Leaning Republican”.

In order to get at the central question of whether Tea Partiers were underperforming what a “normal” Republican would have done in the district their performance, it is then useful to compare the performance of the Tea Partiers on the ballot with the Cook Partisan Voting Index of the district.

One final note, due to the uniqueness of what went on in Florida and Alaska they have been excluded from the analysis. The data in full:

State
CookPVI
Party
Tea Party Candidate
Win/Loss
Open or Challenger
Performance vs. PVI

Kentucky
R+10
Republican
Rand Paul
W
O
2

Colorado
EVEN
Democratic
Ken Buck
L
C
-1

Nevada
D+1
Both
Sharron Angle
L
C
-4

Pennsylvania
D+2
Democratic
Pat Toomey
W
O
4

Wisconsin
D+2
Democratic
Ron Johnson
W
C
7

Delaware
D+7
Democratic
Christine O’Donnell
L
O
-10

State

District
Cook PVI
Party
Tea Party Candidate
Win/Loss
Open or Challenger
Performance vs. PVI

Arizona
7th
D+6
Democratic
Ruth McClung
L
C
2

Arizona
8th
R+4
Democratic
Jesse Kelly
L
C
-6

Arizona
5th
R+5
Democratic
David Schweikert
W
C
5

Arizona
1st
R+6
Democratic
Paul Gosar
W
C
0

Arkansas
4th
R+7
Democratic
Beth Rankin
L
C
-25

Arkansas
1st
R+8
Democratic
Rick Crawford
W
O
-4

California
18th
D+4
Democratic
Michael Berryhill
L
C
-12

California
11th
R+1
Democratic
David Harmer
L
C
0

Delaware
At-large
D+7
Republican
Glen Urquhart
L
O
-9

Florida
22nd
D+1
Democratic
Allen West
W
C
9

Florida
24th
R+4
Democratic
Sandy Adams
W
C
16

Florida
2nd
R+6
Democratic
Steve Southerland
W
C
7

Hawaii
1st
D+11
Republican
Charles Djou
L
I
5

Idaho
1st
R+18
Democratic
Raul Labrador
W
C
-8

Illinois
17th
D+3
Democratic
Robert Schilling
W
C
9

Illinois
8th
R+1
Democratic
Joe Walsh
W
C
-1

Illinois
11th
R+1
Democratic
Adam Kinzinger
W
C
14

Illinois
14th
R+1
Democratic
Randy Hultgren
W
C
1

Illinois
10th
D+6
Republican
Robert Dold
W
O
8

Indiana
2nd
R+2
Democratic
Jackie Walorski
L
C
-3

Indiana
9th
R+6
Democratic
Todd Young
W
C
-2

Kentucky
3rd
D+2
Democratic
Todd Lally
L
C
-9

Maine
2nd
D+3
Democratic
Jason Levesque
L
C
-7

Massachusetts
4th
D+14
Democratic
Sean Bielat
L
C
3

Massachusetts
10th
D+5
Democratic
Jeff Perry
L
O
-9

Michigan
15th
D+13
Democratic
Rob Steele
L
C
-4

Michigan
9th
D+2
Democratic
Rocky Raczkowski
L
C
-1

Michigan
7th
R+2
Democratic
Tim Walberg
W
C
3

Michigan
1st
R+3
Democratic
Dan Benishek
W
O
5

Missouri
4th
R+14
Democratic
Vicky Hartzler
W
C
-9

Nevada
3rd
D+2
Democratic
Joe Heck
W
C
3

New Hampshire
1st
EVEN
Democratic
Frank Guinta
W
C
11

New Mexico
1st
D+5
Democratic
Jonathan Barela
L
C
1

New York
22nd
D+6
Democratic
George Phillips
L
C
2

New York
25th
D+3
Democratic
Ann Marie Buerkle
W
C
3

New York
20th
R+2
Democratic
Chris Gibson
W
C
8

New York
13th
R+4
Democratic
Michael Grimm
W
C
0

North Carolina
8th
R+2
Democratic
Harold Johnson
L
C
-11

Ohio
13th
D+5
Democratic
Tom Ganley
L
C
-5

Ohio
1st
D+1
Democratic
Steve Chabot
W
C
8

Ohio
15th
D+1
Democratic
Steven Stivers
W
C
15

Ohio
6th
R+2
Democratic
Bill Johnson
W
C
3

Ohio
16th
R+4
Democratic
Jim Renacci
W
C
0

Pennsylvania
12th
R+1
Democratic
Tim Burns
L
C
-3

Pennsylvania
4th
R+6
Democratic
Keith Rothfus
L
C
-8

South Carolina
5th
R+7
Democratic
Mick Mulvaney
W
C
3

Tennessee
4th
R+13
Democratic
Scott DesJarias
W
C
6

Texas
27th
R+2
Democratic
Blake Farenthold
W
C
-1

Texas
17th
R+20
Democratic
Bill Flores
W
C
5

Virginia
11th
D+2
Democratic
Keith Femian
L
C
2

Virginia
9th
R+11
Democratic
Morgan Griffith
W
C
-6

Washington
2nd
D+3
Democratic
John Koster
L
C
2

West Virginia
1st
R+9
Democratic
David McKinley
W
O
-8

Wisconsin
8th
R+2
Democratic
Reid Ribble
W
C
8

Wisconsin
7th
D+3
Democratic
Sean Duffy
W
O
10

A few observations “worth reading”:

  • Tea Party candidates in the Senate races performed pretty well but not quite as well as their counterparts in the House.

    • Tea Partiers in Senate races end up with an overall average of -.33 vs. PVI, basically performing on average as you would expect a Republican to in the Senate races.
    • Tea Party candidates in competitive races in the House won 60% of the time. Overall Tea Party candidates in the House outperformed the PVI of their district by +.47%.
  • In the Senate races there is a difference in Tea Party win rate between challengers and those running for open seats.

    • Challengers won one and lost two against incumbents as the incumbents really did a pretty good job of defending their seats.
    • In the open races though, Tea Party candidates had success. They picked up three out of the four races for open Senate seats.
  • Tea Partiers in House Races fared better against incumbents.

    • Eighty-five percent of the Tea Party races in the House were against an incumbent. Of that group Tea Partiers outperformed the PVI of the district by +.60%.

The bottom line is that despite the current media narrative, and the loss of three high profile races by Tea Party backed candidates (Colorado, Nevada and Delaware Senate Races), being the “Tea Party” candidate was not the detriment to a campaign that some would have you believe.

In fact, by looking only at races that were truly competitive,  we find that Tea Party candidates actually perform better than one would expect the generic Republican candidate to perform.

Going into 2012, that is a fact that pundits and politicians ignore at their peril.