Some of the caffeine is out of the Tea Party. At least according to Rutgers University professor Ross Baker.
Baker addressed a room of Middlesex County College students on Thursday during "You Decide -- The Presidential Election: What we know and what we think we know," an open forum discussing the November election.
He was joined by Star-Ledger columnist Tom Moran.
Baker said the role of the tea party has been greatly diminished in comparison to the 2008 election, and the conservative group has lost some of their steam.
Baker addressed some historical trends in presidential elections, notably that in times of economic distress, it has been historically difficult for a president to successfully win a second term.
In 1976, Gerald Ford was gunning for a second term amid a 7.5 unemployment rate nationwide, and was defeated. Four years later, the same thing happened to the man who defeated him, Jimmy Carter, who ran for a second term with a 7.7 percent unemployment rate in the country, Baker said.
And in 1992, George H. Bush's unsuccessful re-election campaign was set against a 7.5 percent unemployment rate.
The current unemployment rate is around 8 percent, Baker said.
Despite the gravity of the economic state, other aspects go into elections, such as the likability of each candidate, and feeling of the American people as to the direction in which the country is headed.
During the forum, hosted by the college's Democracy House organization, Moran handled the majority of questions regarding the current issues of this election, while Baker provided much historical information and context.
Moran urged the students to get educated on a ballot question that if passed in New Jersey, would allot $750 million to higher education institutions in New Jersey, including community colleges.
That money would ultimately lower student tuition, he said, making the urgency to vote a "no-brainer" for students this year.
Moran referred to the question as "bags of money" waiting for the students, and urged them to visit the voter registration table in the rear of the room.
"This bond issue for higher education is very important," he said.
Participants asked questions about "Obamacare," the Bush tax cuts, Iran and Israel and swing states, with the liveliest discussion centering around health care reform.
Baker said that one of the faults of the health care act was that Washington had no idea how to sell it to the American people, a fact they realized too late.
"That reassurance just wasn't there," he said.
Student Anatoly Doubrovny, 21, who has worked in manufacturing as a machinist apprentice asked the question of whether the government should still subsidize those companies, and if that job field is still important.
After the discussion, Doubrovny, of East Brunswick, said there isn't much discussion in politics about that job field, one that in past decades, was considered a strong American industry.
A lot of machinists tend to vote Republican, as they are small business owners, he said. But he wasn't particularly impressed with either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, Doubrovny said.
Baker said that the thing that young college students ages 17-19 need to realize is that they are recognized as non-participants in the political arena, which is why federal funding for students is largely inconsistent.
Politicians are "terrified" of senior citizens, because they vote in droves, Baker said.
"Your claim on any of the benefits (available) are impaired by the fact that you don't vote," he said.
For more information on Democracy House at Middlesex County College, click here.