Our Venom Is Our Vote
How the Tea Party is Helping Mitt Romney
Poor Mitt Romney. He's the closest thing to a professional candidate that we currently have running. He has movie star looks, the requisite grey streaks in his hair and an admirable record as a private sector venture capitalist.
However, at the rate he's going it's becoming more likely that if he is nominated, it will be by a Republican Party which barely seems to tolerate him, and if this were to happen then the indecision of the Tea Party will most likely be to blame.
From the outset establishment types have been able to mostly rally behind Romney, with perhaps a few early flirtations with former Governor Tim Pawlenty. In comparison, Tea Party voters have had a near plethora of candidates to choose from, ranging from early crowd favorite Michele Bachmann to current front runner Herman Cain, with others supporting Governor Rick Perry.
This has the effect of splitting the Tea Party vote among several candidates while the Establishment is allowed to coalesce it's support behind Romney.
Here's Time magazine's take on the situation:
“I have my issues with Romney, as do most people,” says Christen Varley of the Greater Boston Tea Party. “However, nobody really seems to like anybody else.”
This week’s CNN/TIME/ORC poll of Republican voters in the first four primary battlegrounds provides a snapshot of how Tea Party fickleness has enhanced Romney’s standing. In , , and , Romney fares better among more moderate GOPers than he does among religious conservatives and self-identified Tea Party supporters. But the latter group has been unable to zero in on a favorite. In Iowa, for example, Cain — the current object of Tea Party ardor — leads with 29% of self-professed Tea Party backers, with Gingrich at 13%, Paul at 12% and Perry at 8%. Romney, running first with 24% overall (and 17% among Tea Partyers), is the beneficiary of this crowded field. Thanks to a divided Tea Party bloc, he leads among this cohort in New Hampshire, ties Cain for first among movement supporters in Florida and sits second in South Carolina.
“Romney’s hope has to be that all the conservatives stay in the race through the first few states,” says Ryan Hecker, a Tea Party activist who crafted the movement’s Contract From America. “If there is one conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, Tea Partyers will rally around that person.”
Hecker is a staunch opponent of Romney, whom he accuses of changing his position on a host of issues, from health care to the flat tax. “Anyone conservative who knows his record has to be against Mitt Romney,” Hecker says. And yet, while they haven’t forgiven Romney’s sins, Tea Partyers are becoming acquainted with those of his rivals, and they may be giving Romney another look as a result.
Over Labor Day weekend, FreedomWorks, the Washington-based Tea Party advocacy group whose PAC Hecker works for, protested Romney’s appearance at a rally hosted by the Tea Party Express, explaining that the Tea Party needed to protect itself against posers trying to swaddle themselves in the flag. But within weeks, the movement’s official line against Romney had softened. In an interview with the Huffington Post in late September, Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks’ CEO, allowed that Romney “has the opportunity to rehabilitate himself.”
“It’s not enough to be right and lose. The goal here is to win the presidency,” he said. “For all of our reputation as strident ideologues, I think Tea Partyers are quite practical when it comes to politics. They’re looking at electable candidates.”
Kibbe was unable to be reached for comment for this story, but Brendan Steinhauser, the organization’s director of federal and state campaigns, said he had not seen a groundswell of support for Romney. “Maybe some folks are saying Romney is the electable guy and [backing] him,” Steinhauser says, pointing to conservative congressmen like Jason Chaffetz and Jeff Flake, who have endorsed the former governor. “But they’re definitely more interested in finding a conservative alternative. They’re just still figuring out who that is."
[Contributors note: Many in the MI-GOP seemed to jump on the Romney bandwagon early also in an abundance of desire to have an early Candidate to go after Barack Oblunder. The Grass-roots, however, seems to resisting and rebelling against the MI-GOP establishment types leadership and saying NOT SO FAST!!! The issue may very well indeed be whether or not the Tea Party support does remain split giving the State to Romney as a consequence. Same is true of the MI US Senate seat Primary battle (see: Meet the Michigan US Senate Candidates forum report). At issue, of course, is whether the Conservative base will turn out in the General Election for Romney or is this just another GOP establishment (like with Dole and McCain) tossing away the Election to the Democrats. Will Conservatives be so motivated to replace Obama that they'll over-look Mitt's Flip-flops and all the other obvious/predictable Campaign reminders the DNC will advertise!?!?]