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."
I understand his reasoning, but Mitt Romney doesn't seem to understand that the Tea Parties aren't about Democrats vs Republicans.
in other words: if you don't win, quit crying, fall into line and get something done? hmm...now only if they could take this mentality into other things like health care reform....is that asking for too much?
Funny Mitt, I can't find a quote from you when Nader ran in 2000 and affected Gore's effort. Oh, that's right, you only speak up when you or your party are impacted. Silly me!
Tea Party Members – DON'T Listen to this wind bag! The Republicans are trying to drive you away from your purpose and force you to the back of the line, you might say. Remember both Dems and Repubs don't wont a third party , ever! It's about control, both sides wants to control what you think and feel about an issue. Tell Romney to go screw himself. I'd rather see Ron Paul be the next Republican candidate for President then any of these other big mouth Republicans. Ron has a more open-minded approach as the rest of these loons just are grabbing for power.
Mitt Romney would have been the prefect president through the past year. Hopefully people will start basing their oppinions on his success in business, as governor and with the 2002 Olympics rather than his hair, wealth (successful business ventures make money), or religion.
He's a good guy and a smart guy.
By any means necessary!!!!!
How sad politicians have no solution to issues only attacks to make the other side look worse than they do.
When are they going to learn that just because there is two inept parties doesn’t imply you have to pick one or the other.
They always use “ You’ll be voting for the other side” when you vote against them.
First, NO I voted for the side I wanted too. I have no allegiance to any of the parties that I disagree with.
I hope one day there can be as many parties as it takes to send the message that these lobbyist, PAC driven, self-interest groups do not own this country.
One the middle class and the poor get tired of being lied to constantly they will one day rise to make real change not just lies to placate special interest groups and the way things are going that may be sooner than they THINK!!!!!
Whoever votes for a Republican votes for the death of the poor and sick. The insurance execs are much obliged to take millions of $$ of health insurance profits at the expense of the uninsured middle class. So go ahead and keep listening to your Supreme leader Race Limbaugh – the biggest buffoon of the Fright Wing.
This guy is even less intelligent than Sarah Palin. He's never had a real job, born with a silver spoon and a permanant nanny and hairdresser. What a dork.
The GOP had 8 years to the rights thing and they did not. They managed to start 2 wars and drive the deficit through the roof. Lets remember how we got here. Do we really want to hand the government back over. maybe a third party is just want this country with no direction needs. Maybe a third party president can unite the party divide. Both parties have great ideas, but until they learn how to get along and compromise we have no direction.
Here is proof to the rightwingers on this site that CNN is not the flaming liberal news source they claim. The writer called the teapartiers a "grassroots movement." We all know it's astro-turf, so this guy parroting the FAUXNews lines is good evidence it isn't liberal like they claim.
DO WHAT DADDY ROMNEY TELLS YOU!
BE GOOD SHEEP AND STEP ASIDE! BAHH, BAHH.
And just watch, they're all such sheep that they actually will step aside and obey the command of Romney and his magical Mormon underpants.
When you suck, you suck.
Oh.. I didn't know he was Supreme Ayatolla of the Tea Party!
I agree with the Gov. Just remember what happened when the little tycoon from Texas ran against Bush I and split the conservative vote. the country ended up with that Clinton mess. Don't do this again. If your first choice republican loses in the primaries, stay with the conservatives through the general election even if you have to bite your lip. Those "Clinchem" years started our country toward the current progressive philosophy because he brought a bunch of far left-leaning dems into power. It will take a generation to fix the Clinton/Lewinsky downgrading of our morals.
And this is a bad thing because????
silent majority? did I miss something. They are the loud idiotic minority, not majority. If I'm wrong, let me know so I can get the hell our of here. What a scary thought.
Mitt also said...keep voting republican, we can convince you gullible lemmings of anything, you're the perfect dupes for our folly – we need your votes.
It's a free country aint it Mitt? Afraid of a little competition?
"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." Yeah Romney, that would be very sad, but even sadder if the country goes back to the same party that brought it down to its knees, with massive deficits, needless arrogance towards other countries, an economy on the verge of collapse and unemployment levels not seen for years. Blame that on Obama, Reid and Pelosi all you want Mitt, americans are not all that dumb. Maybe TeaPartiers are, but not all americans.
Romney is an ego waiting to happen. He's in love with himself. He deserves the tea baggers....they're all right wing nuts!
The tea party has to be even more naive than I thought if they think the Republican party is on their side.
Those crazy republicans! First they attach themselves to the Tea Party movement ... now, they want the "baggers" to back off. Hey Mr. Romney, you can't have it both ways.
Susan in NC
Isn't it good to know that this country is in such good shape that all the repubs have to be concerned with is winning future elections? I would never support the Tea Party but at least they show concern with what's going on now.
Duh! This is newsworthy?
Don't tell us what to do Mitt. You better make sure someone who is backed by the Tea Party gets the nomination.