Washington (CNN) - Mitt Romney has a message to Tea Party candidates nationwide: If you lose your Republican primary bids, stay on the sidelines.
The former Massachusetts governor on Monday warned the grassroots movement not to mount third party efforts in general elections, which he said would siphon votes from Republican nominees.
"If there is a conservative candidate that runs in the general election, then obviously, divide and fail is the result," Romney said in an interview with the conservative Web site Newsmax. "Hopefully Tea Party candidates will run in respective primaries and they will either win or lose. And if they win, they will go into the general. If they lose, they won't, and they will get behind the more conservative of the two finalists."
Romney explained that "dividing our conservative effort in the general elections" would "basically hand the country to Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and that would be very sad indeed."
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made similar remarks last month in a speech sponsored by the Arkansas Republican Party. "Now the smart thing will be for independents who are such a part of this Tea Party movement to, I guess, kind of start picking a party," she said, adding that the GOP would be the most natural fit for such activists.
Romney had kind words for the Tea Party movement. "I'm really pleased that the silent majority is silent no longer," he said, predicting that the movement "will have have an impact on this election."
"Not all the Tea Partiers are Republicans, not all of them vote for Republicans, but I think most of them will," he said.
The potential presidential candidate also dismissed his second place finish to Texas Rep. Ron Paul in last month's Conservative Political Action Conference Straw Poll, which he chalked up to libertarian collusion. Paul's win broke Romney's three year winning streak in the straw poll.
"The good thing about libertarians is that when they are called to show up somewhere they do, and when they get a call in the night saying, 'Hey, we need you to show up at CPAC or show up at a straw poll or show up at an event,' they will show up, and you've got to congratulate them for that," he said.
"But I don't think there is a growing portion of Americans who are, if you will, Ron Paul devotees, but he has an influence, and we welcome his participation in the party. It's a big tent party."
UPDATE: Paul spokesman Jesse Benton responded to Romney's claim.
"It takes a tremendous amount of both support and organization to win a straw poll with the prestige of CPAC's," Benton told CNN in an e-mail. "We are proud that Dr. Paul has both. The message of liberty and sound money is growing everyday, and Dr. Paul is honored to be one of the leading spokesman."
Trying to stop a third major political party from emerging is futile. The tea party will kill the republican party.
That's what I'm hoping for...a big split!
Yep – all you tea party people – make sure you stay in your place.
Perhaps the Republican party isn't getting it. There are conservatives out there that do not share the same social values as those that have corrupted the party. There are plenty of us that are fiscally conservative that want nothing to do with a party that is run by the Christian Coalition or Religious Right.
Like I've been saying all along, the Tea Partiers are the ultra right wing of the Republican party. Its a shame that these peopel who railed against bailouts etc are being swallowed up by the party of corporate america.
Its seems that Rush Limbaugh's operation Chaos just might work out better for Obama Democrats then Limbaugh Republicans.....Dont you just love Karma?
Ron Paul?!?!? Why?!?
As much as I support the Tea Party, this is very true. Just like Ross Perot, who I voted for, spoiled Bush 1 and allowed Clinton to get elected, the Tea Party could pave the way for the worst POTUS in recorded history to win again. Nothing could be worse for this nation.
Don't be a spoiler! The Tea Party candidates have no chance of winning!
It is unfortunate that You – Mitt Romney – are pressing for disabling this country at its foundation.
why don't you encourage so-called, tea-partiers, to support their country and to respect their President.
What do you teach your children about authority? do you represent the people who sue the teacher, the principal, if they disagree with the administration?
what do you prove?
Grow-up Mitt and company. teach values, respect for authority, working within the system – whatever happened to that?
It is obvious that Mr.Romney did not pay attention to the recent Massachusetts upset. People are tired of the same old do nothing Congress. They sent a message to Washington that they wanted change in the last presidential election; unfortunately the message did not get through. The voters will continue until Washington hears the message. The Democrats, Republicans and the president need to listen to the people who are paying the bills.
Romney, we're all voting for Ron Paul, and those of his nature. The Dumbocrats and Regurgocrats are toast... Only fools would follow the two-party lines anymore.
What people like Mr. Romney don't understand is that the Tea Party movement is not about political parties. They are people who are tired of govt. spending, tired of corruption, tired of looking the other way on illegal immigration, tired of giving our country away. It matters not whether the politician is a republican or democrat, it is the ideas and policies that they advocate which matter.
Now Romney can marry Karl Rove in DC. You raised your family in Massachusetts and was a governor there for a while. Now you dissed everything Massachusetts stands for! What a proud American you are Mr. Romney!
Chalking it up to Libertarian Colussion is not a smart thing to do. Maybe you should Analyze Ron Paul and see why he's gaining in numbers. Personally, I think it's because he's the only one acknowledging that the GOP does have flaws.
That's un-American! Doesn't Mr. Romney believe in freedom of speech?
So in the end, no matter what the republican party does, The Tea Party is a Republican Party. So much for the grassroots and not liking either party. The Tea Party = Sheep following the Republicans no matter what.
Romney, you're such a tool. if you get any closer to the lights, I think you'd melt.
OK Tea Partiers you've had your fun, now buckle down and be a good little Republican.
Plan, plan , plan and scheme everything you have to do to regain power.Do not worry about any problems your contry has just get out there and spread more divsion,hate and lies.Do not worry about families that are struggling just worry about power. That is pretty much the agenda of the right. Sort of anti Christian and most certainly anti American.
Those Republicans who thought they could co-opt the Tea Party and make it subservient to the Republica Party have created a monster, who is about to devour them.
They're all crazy. We are going to see these ultra conservative tea party candidates win the republican primaries and turn off independent voters in the general election due to their extreme right wing agenda. When moderate republicans like Charlie Christ start getting knocked out in primaries, you are going to see the Republican party's right wingers bringing the party down on their knees.
Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush would be great Team for 2012.
These guys have some class. Much better than the old phart McCain
LOL, Romney and Palin wish the Teapartiers were republicans but they are not! They are more like Libertarians and anti-government anarchists. They are a fringe more radical than the current republican party – and that's too radical for mainstream America. America has changed in the last few decades, the bitter and fearful Tea Party will never represent the mainstream.
All politics, all tthe time. The repugs are the equivalent of political terrorists.
At one time I thought Romney was OK. But-I really think he has lost his marbles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hey Mitt–get a hobby.