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."
This country needs another party, because obviously, Republicans and Democrats just don't get it anymore. Both parties have had their opportunity and they have failed miserably.
George Washington warned against being devoted to a two party system, but I'm sure that fact is a little too inconvenient for Democrats and Republicans who claim to "love this country".
Why screw up a good thing when you have a 50/50 chance of winning an election, right? Idiot.
The Tea party doesn't speak for me... Im a person of a darker shade!
It's amazing that the Tea Party hasn't figured out they are being used. I thought they weren't aligning to any particular party...Go figure. I don't blame Republicans. They definitely know what they are doing.
There seems to be some confusion as to whether Tea Partiers are in fact not party-affiliated – even among the Tea Partiers themselves.
There is the massage loud and clear. Two choices.. Both parties in the pockets of wall street and large Corporations. Any choice will result in the same ole do nothing for people government.
We vote our values Mitt. And if the Tea Party Candidate does not win against the Republican they are still running in the general ... as we who vote our values and not party will require a candidate to support ...
you corporate republicans DO NOT support our values ...
we have been duped time and again with the lessor of two evils BS.
Not this time ...
Everything Changed after the TaxPayer bailout ....
People Power is coming ... get out of the way you corporate shill.
this next decade will make the 50s look like the 60s.
Romney is right, as usual.
If the Tea Party candidate does not win in the primary, then get behind the Republican candidate.
The Republican candidate might not be perfect--no politician is perfect--but they are definitely better than any Obama, Pelosi, and Reid Democratic sock puppet.
We must save our economy, states, country with the 2010 elections--and this can only happen by sending as many Democrats as possible to the unemployment lines during the elections in November.
Mitt Romney in 2012!!!!
It is amazing to me how republicans continue to say how bad it will be if the democrats get re-elected.They act like the republicans were not in power when the economy went into the tank.The day after Obama took office,it was all his fault.The sad part is,there are a lot of Americans who fall far it.Republicans are only trying to protect the interests of the insurance industry not help the little man.
Are we really that bad off now? Compared to Bush?
I think not. Anything bad now is just residual from Bush's 8 years.
True! Look at Ross Perot impact on the election. He gave us Clinton.
Since when does the Tea Party movment take orders from Mitt or any other Republican
Romney fails to grasp that many if not most Tea Partiers are as disgusted with the GOP as we are with the Democratic Party. We haven't forgotten how the GOP partied with the budget during the Bush years and helped wreck the country's fiscal future. A plaque on both their houses.
When is the Messiah supposed to reappear in Missouri??
That misplaced book of Mormon, where did that thing come from? and who is the dern fool that lost it again??
Typical Republican Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! Go get another wife! (correction) "life"
Exactly, we have to get rid of nobama and the liberal demorats to save this country.
A big tent party where 99% of the participants are white!
With the Republicans in charge of the primaries, the Tea Party doesn't have a snowball's chance. Romney is just warning the Tea Party to toe-the-line and do what they are told.
Sorry Mitt but you helped create this monster and now you're stuck with it. By the way, these Tea Party pundits aren't conservative, they are just angry, scared, mostly bigoted and demonstrably ignorant regarding virtually every "issue." Once again they have been shamelessly taken advantage of by the very folks that brought our country to the brink of ruin. When asked why they are protesting I haven't heard a Tea Partier get beyond a Fox News/Dick Armey talking point yet. Where was all this anger when the copuntry was being driven into the sewer by Bush and his "conservative" backers and lobbyists?
And its official Republicans are acting like the own the Tea Party.
That's funny. I thought the "Tea Party" was a non-partisan grassroots movement to take back our country from out of control politicans, no matter what party they represent. It seems that Romney has all but outted them here as being nothing more than the latest attempt by the Republicrats to create a new base, now that the Evangelicals that carried them through the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush years are over. What a joke.
And I suppose handing the country back to you and your tribe of Republicans will be any better? I don't have any particular party preference but I do know that your parties' accomplishments during the 8 years that you had the opportunity to do really something great for the United States was wasted. Maybe we should give Mr. Obama and the dems an equal 8 years to see if they can make a change or if they will waste away their opportunity like your party did.
Yea, OR ELSE
says Romney AKA "Like A Boss"
Sorry romney, this 3rd party is needed because your way too plastic.
Absolutely they should make third party bids if they want to be considered a real party. The more Conservative independent bids, the better.
Be careful on what you say Romney. If you tell voters to "get behind the more conservative of the two finalists", then you will never make it in the GOP general primary. You are the less conservative candidate because you were conservative before you get liberal, or you where liberal before you become conservative, or you were... I am confused! What were you ans what are you now? Better yet what will you be in 2011-2012. Oh brother, you confuse me....
Hogwash. The need for a viable third party, actually even a true second one, is long, long overdue. The two in power are nothing more than two wings of the same bird of prey, just two gangs in the suites that act more like the crooks they are every day. If the Tea protesters get sucked up by the Republican Party the same way the Rainbow coalition got sucked up by the Democratic Party, there will be hell to pay.