Across the country, the most conservative candidates in the Republican field, such as Sharron Angle in Nevada, are doing well, pushing out more moderate Republicans, and many say the reason is clear.

"I think that the primaries showed that the overwhelming concern of voters is government spending," said Kate Obenshain, former chairwoman of the Virginia Republican Party.

"Debt, spending and taxes. There is more unanimity in Republican and Tea Party ranks about those issues than anything else," said Larry Sabato, director of University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

"Taxpayers are fed up," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "They want us to stop spending their money, and I think it's time for Congress to listen to the American people."

Boehner says even though some Republican lawmakers have made mistakes in the past, they've learned their lessons and he emphasized that anti-big government views are in ascendance in Congress as well.

"Our members have voted over the last year and a half," he said. "They all said no to the stimulus bill. They all said no to their budget with trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see. They said no to the national energy tax. No to their national health care bill."

Democrats have dismissed Republicans as nothing more than the "party of no," and some economists warn that cutting spending before the recovery takes hold could do long-term damage to the economy.

But opinion polls seem to back up Republicans. According to a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, the federal debt is just as big a concern for voters generally as terrorism, with 79 percent saying those issues are extremely or very serious. Unemployment, by contrast, is considered a serious issue by 83 percent.

Broken down by party, 50 percent of Republicans see federal debt as a threat to the nation's future, while 42 percent of independents agree. But only 26 percent of Democrats see it that way.

That puts independents much closer to Republican candidates on the issues they care about most.

"This is the genesis of much of the Tea Party's energy and strength and also mainstream Republicans are very concerned about it," Sabato said.

That and a ferocious dislike of incumbents makes this election year hard to predict. That same poll shows 63 percent of voters said most members of Congress do not deserve re-election, while 32 percent said most do.

That helps explain why a once obscure conservative such as Angle in Nevada is outpolling a famous and powerful Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whom she leads by 50 to 39 percent in a new Rasmussen poll.

But Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush and a Fox News contributor, says many incumbents prevailed even over Tea Party challengers.

There is a ravenous appetite for people who are fresh and new, he said, pointing to victories in California by wealthy businesswomen Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina.

Jim Angle currently serves as chief national correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1996 as a senior White House correspondent.