The Tea Party is unpopular, but Mitt Romney has to pretend to be “in synch” with the movement. And that’s the box the GOP finds itself in.

The Tea Party is unpopular (though admittedly less unpopular than the Republicans). The NYT poll shows 20% of the voters favorable to the movement, while 40% are unfavorable, while CNN shows an even worse 31%-51%.

So what does Mitt Romney, who supposedly wants to be President, think he’s doing when he claims (falsely) to be “in synch” with the yahoos? Answer: seeking the Republican nomination. And there you have the box the GOP finds itself in. Even with a thoroughly rotten economy, the positions someone has to take to become the Republican nominee will make it almost impossible to get elected President.

Footnote Coincidentally, a new op-ed by David Campbell and Robert Putnam (drawn from the same research that produced their magisterial American Grace) discredits the Tea Party promoters’ origin myth about politically naive folks coming together to oppose “big government.” In fact, Tea Party supporters are characterized by long-standing Republican affiliation, religiosity, opposition to abortion, and hostility to blacks and immigrants. Putnam also claims that TPers are now less popular than Muslims or (shudder) even atheists, but doesn’t provide the actual data.