The Tea Party movement is showing signs of a resurgence following the revelation that the IRS targeted groups and other politically conservative organizations for the past several years.
A recent poll shows Americans have a more favorable opinion of the less-government, anti-tax groups. And one of the biggest groups in the grassroots movement told FoxNews.com this weekend that fundraising and donations have increased since news of the IRS targeting broke earlier this month.
However, one of the biggest remaining questions is whether the Tea Party can take the momentum in the 2014 elections.
The movement started in 2009 as a reaction to the federal government’s multibillion-dollar bank bailouts in the recession and played a major role in the 2010 midterm elections by backing conservative candidates who helped Republicans take control of the House. However, critics during the 2012 election cycle repeatedly argued the movement had become less relevant.
“We’re definitely seeing a spike in both interest and contributions,” Sal Russo, co-founder of the California-based Tea Party Express, told Fox on Saturday.
Though Americans responded with anger and disappointment over the news that such groups seeking tax-exempt status were targeted in 2011 and 2012 for additional IRS vetting, Russo said Tea Party members also feel vindicated and energized.
“They knew spending was out of control and their (political opponents) would stop at nothing,” Russo said.
Russo made his comments one day after a Rasmussen Reports poll showed 44 percent of likely U.S. voters now have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party, 14 percentage points higher than in January and just 7 points below the record high of 51 percent in April 2009.
In addition, the percentage of voters who had an unfavorable opinion of the movement was down 5 points from earlier this year, to 44 percent.
The May 21-22 phone survey of 1,100 likely voters by the conservative-leaning polling firm also found 18 percent had a very favorable opinion while 25 percent had a very unfavorable one. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.
Company President Scott Rasmussen told Fox on Sunday the poll showed Tea Party support among Republicans surged from 61 to 80 percent.
Such a change could impact the internal struggles within the party, particularly between the Republican-controlled House’s conservative caucus and the more moderate chamber leadership.
However, Rasmussen thinks the IRS targeting has the potential to thrust the Tea Party into the 2014 elections and that the scandal might have a bigger impact on Democrats.
“This and some of the other recent stories really cut into the heart of President Obama’s agenda, which is faith in government,” he said. “And his health-care plan is tied to the IRS. The large question is will the Democrats’ brand remain tainted.”
Russo was enthusiastic about 2014, saying he was working this weekend on potential races. But he was uncertain about how long the scandal might remain in the voters’ consciousness.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “But a lot of people are looking at the Tea Party right now.”