Up until now, the Tea Party folk had been very lukewarm about all the GOP candidates. They had no candidate that excited them. Romney was a flip-flopper and Obamacare was the bastard offspring of Romneycare. Santorum was a big-government conservative and anti-free market. Bachmann was a light-weight. Perry flamed out. Gingrich carried too much baggage. Palin didn’t run.
But the Tea Party of 2010 wasn’t sleeping; it was organizing. The impact was seen in GOP primaries where vulnerable RINOs got picked off. It was also seen in Wisconsin. A lot of Tea Party money and people went into that campaign in support of Walker. The focus for 2012 was to be getting more fiscal conservatives into the House and Senate.
Tea Party folk were resigned to Romney making a bland choice like Pawlenty or Portman, although I know some Tea Party organizers in Ohio were actively campaigning against Portman getting the nod.
But, Romney started performing better. His campaign showed some fight, in marked contrast to the McCain campaign. And he made a bold choice in going with Ryan. The three core Tea Party values are “Constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets”. Ryan lines up pretty well with those values, and Romney’s choice shows he is willing to run on fiscal responsibility. This will generate a lot of momentum for Romney going into the home stretch. The 2010 mid-terms were just a foretaste of the 2012 event.