“I think competition is a good thing,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in an interview that airs Sunday on State of the Union. “You know, I've got 11 brothers and sisters. I learned about competition early on. But it makes everybody better. And so we've had Tea Party candidates in primaries. [The] [m]ore competition, the better.”
Boehner was commenting on the possibility that third party candidates supported by Tea Partiers might challenge moderate Republicans in swing districts during this year’s primaries.
Earlier: Who are the Tea Party activists?
But, at the same time, Boehner also sought to extend a welcoming hand to the grassroots movement to join leagues with the GOP.
“But when it comes to the Tea Party folks, I think our job is to listen to them,” Boehner told CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “And I'm going to listen to them. I'm going to walk with them, and do everything I can to have them - interest them in working with us to bring about a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government here in Washington.”
Boehner’s lack of concern about Tea Party-powered third-party candidates diverges from recent comments by other prominent Republicans.
Veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove told CNN last week that he was concerned about the Tea party movement’s potential to do harm to the GOP.
"It will hurt the Republican Party if some elements of the Tea Party decide to become third party advocates, because it will split the conservative vote," Rove said on The Situation Room.
Despite that concern, Rove said he believes the vast majority of Tea Partiers "are trying to figure out, in a decentralized, grassroots way, how they can remain a force, a movement, that holds the feet of elected officials in both parties to the fire."
Also seeing potential danger from the Tea Party movement, former GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney last week said Tea Party-backed candidates who lose Republican primary bids should not consider running third-party general election bids.
Romney said in an interview with a conservative Web site 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."
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