The controversy over the IRS’s harassment of conservative groups continues. President Obama’s team continues to blame low-level bureaucrats. Some conservatives suspect a more sinister explanation: that the levers of government were used to attack an existential threat to the president’s 2012 reelection. The president and his party dismiss this as a paranoid fantasy. The evidence, however, is enough to make one believe that targeting Tea Party groups would have been an effective campaign strategy going into the 2012 election cycle.
It is a well-known fact that the Tea Party movement dealt the president his famous “shellacking” in the 2010 midterm election. Less well-known is the actual number of votes this new movement delivered — and the continuing effects these votes could have had in 2012 had the movement not been demobilized by the IRS.
In a new research paper, Andreas Madestam (from Stockholm University), Daniel Shoag and David Yanagizawa-Drott (both from the Harvard Kennedy School), and I set out to find out how much impact the Tea Party had on voter turnout in the 2010 election.