Cato Institute fellow Michael Tanner calls Republican frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich “pre-Tea Party.” He may have the timing wrong. (More)

Talking Points Memo‘s Pema Levy reports that libertarians do not like the Republican frontrunners:

Libertarians in Washington are not happy about how the Republican primary is shaping up. Barring a miracle, there are two candidates with a decent shot at the nomination. Mitt Romney, the godfather of Obamacare, is not libertarians’ first choice. And they think Newt Gingrich, the new frontrunner, is even worse.

Levy cites Christopher Barron’s column at the Daily Caller as evidence of Tea Party frustration with the primary outlook:

The tea party was a revolt against politics as usual. It was as much a revolt against the excesses of Republican politicians as it was a revolt against Democratic politicians. The tea party put Republican elected officials on notice that we — the base of the GOP — were not taking it anymore. Since the tea party led the GOP to historic wins in November of 2010, Hill Republicans, particularly House Republicans, are behaving in an uncharacteristic fashion. They are holding the line on spending, refusing to agree to raise taxes at all, and working in earnest to rein in the size of government. These politicians didn’t suddenly get religion. They didn’t find political Jesus, they found fear — fear of the tea party. The truth is that the only thing that stands between Republicans on the Hill going back to the bad old days of the Bush-era GOP is fear of a backlash from the tea party.

Levy also quotes Cato Institute fellow Michael Tanner saying “There’s a belief that the field represents a pre-Tea Party Republicanism.” Tanner expanded on that in an article at the National Review online:

In the wake of the disastrous Bush presidency and the Republican defeats of 2006 and 2008, it was widely assumed that the GOP had repudiated the idea that big government could be harnessed for conservative ends. And, of course, in 2010, the Tea Party led a return to conservatism’s traditional small-government roots, resulting in the biggest Republican landslide in 70 years. One would think that settled the matter.

It might have, in a world that ignores results. But as Pew Research reported last week, support for the Tea Party has slipped … especially in House districts represented by members of the Tea Party Caucus:

Since the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party has not only lost support nationwide, but also in the congressional districts represented by members of the House Tea Party Caucus. And this year, the image of the Republican Party has declined even more sharply in these GOP-controlled districts than across the country at large.
[…]
Throughout the 2010 election cycle, agreement with the Tea Party far outweighed disagreement in the 60 House districts represented by members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus. But as is the case nationwide, support has decreased significantly over the past year; now about as many people living in Tea Party districts disagree (23%) as agree (25%) with the Tea Party.

A reasonable observer might notice that the issues of the Occupy movement have more greater public support than the issues of the Tea Party, and posit that voters recognized the Tea Party as a corporate-funded bait-and-switch. An observer might also note that 2010 was a midterm election where, given the number of seats in play for each party, the Republican ‘landslide’ was little more than a random walk slightly enhanced by a still-anemic economy. Such an observer might assume the Tea Party’s impact and staying power were wildly overestimated, and that the current Republican field is less “pre-Tea Party” than “post-Tea Party.”

Or one could conclude, as Tanner does, that Republicans have lost sight of their true calling:

Nowhere in their rhetoric is there a recognition that big government is bad because it makes us less free.

Perhaps voters recognize that being “free” to watch their dreams stagnate while their Tea Party representatives single-mindedly pursue less taxes for the rich and less everything for the rest … doesn’t fit their idea of “freedom” after all. A flash in the pan won’t cook dinner.