Tea Party-Backed Lawmakers Endorse Romney, Despite Grassroots Skepticism
With eight weeks to go until the first Republican nominating contest in Iowa, tea party-backed lawmakers are beginning to line up behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, despite a deep-rooted skepticism among the grassroots movement, according to CQ – 2012 Endorsement Watch
As of this week, Romney has a total of thirty-eight formal endorsements including Tea Party Caucus Reps. Rodney Alexander (La.), Rob Bishop (Utah), Howard Coble (N.C.), Ander Crenshaw (Fla.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Wally Herger (Calif.) and Lamar Smith (Texas). Additionally, tea party-backed Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Michael Grimm (N.Y.) also support Mr. Romney.
Romney’s good fortune lies in stark contrast to some of the other GOP candidates actively seeking the tea party mantle.
Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, has no support from Capitol Hill. No doubt, her recent struggles in the polls, lackluster fundraising, and campaign staff shake-ups have given many potential supporters concern about the viability of her candidacy. Despite her hardships, conservative media giant Glenn Beck, legendary singer Wayne Newton, and Iowa Tea Party chairman Ryan Rhodes are backing Mrs. Bachmann.
Atlanta businessman Herman Cain, the current GOP frontrunner according to several polls, has no formal endorsements from tea party affiliated members of Congress. His current struggles involving accusations of sexual harassment and allegations of campaign finance violations have yet to show any loss of momentum for the “Cain train.” And Cain’s outsider persona and insurgent campaign approach may not need the backing of traditional inside-the-beltway support. Besides, who needs the Tea Party Caucus when comedian-turned-conservative-commentator Dennis Miller has your back?
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich fairs a little better than Bachmann and Cain in the endorsement race, with four nods from current members of Congress, including Tea Party Caucus Reps. Joe Barton (Texas), Michael Burgess (Texas), Tom Price (Ga.)., and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) – not a grassroots movement member – completes the Gingrich team.
Libertarian-leaning Texas congressman Ron Paul enjoys support from a total of three members of Congress, including a co-founder of the Senate Tea Party Caucus – Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) – who also happens to be his son. Though not tea party members, GOP Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.) and Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) are also members of the Paul endorsement triumvirate.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a total of eighteen endorsements, including a strong show of support among members of the Tea Party Caucus. Reps. John Carter (Texas), Mike Coffman (Colo.), John Culberson (Texas), Kenny Marchant (Texas), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Steve Scalise (La.) and Pete Sessions (Texas) all support Perry. GOP Governors Bobby Jindal (La.) and Brian Sandoval (Nev.), Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) and Reps. Mike Conaway (Texas), Sam Graves (Mo.), Sam Johnson (Texas), Michael McCaul (Texas), Candice Miller (Mich.) also support the Texas governor.
Other notable endorsements in the Perry camp include actor Dean Cain – of “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” fame – and billionaire and Fox News host Steve Forbes. With roughly $15 million in the bank, a credible opt-in flat tax plan, a growing campaign infrastructure in the early primary states, and better debate performances – there’s a good chance Perry could pick up several more constitutional conservatives between now and January 3.
At the grassroots level, the tea party groups are not yet singing in unison, though many are strongly against certain candidates or non-committal for the moment.
Bucking the trend, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips gave a glowing endorsement of Newt Gingrich and painted a grim picture for the future of the movement if Romney is successful in his bid for the Republican nomination.
“The problem the tea party has right now is an abundance of riches,” wrote Phillips in a blog post on Tuesday. “We have some good candidates and one really great candidate [Gingrich]. Unfortunately our votes are split all over the place and that is the problem. The first caucus is eight weeks away. If we remain split, we are going to see the Republican establishment nominate Romney and if that happens, the tea party has lost.”
Ned Ryun, the president and founder of the tea party group “American Majority,” issued a harsh critique last week of Michele Bachmann’s campaign and called for her to quit the presidential race. In response to the rebuke, Levi Russell – director of public affairs for Americans for Prosperity – told CNN the “conservative movement across the country has not made up its mind about any particular candidate.”
Though not a formal endorsement, FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey offered high-praise for both Herman Cain and Rick Perry in an appearance Sunday on ABC’s This Week. Meanwhile, FreedomWorks organizer Brendan Steinhauser took the “anybody but Romney” approach in an interview with Reuters last month.
"We've been very critical of Mitt Romney -- we're hoping one of these other guys emerges as the conservative alternative," said Steinhauser. "We plan to be on the ground in South Carolina and Florida," both important early primary states in the presidential race.