Romney to make first appearance at a major tea party rally
August 30th, 2011
11:52 AM ET
3 years ago

Romney to make first appearance at a major tea party rally

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – For the first time, Mitt Romney will headline a major national tea party rally.

On Labor Day the Republican presidential candidate will join the Tea Party Express' "Reclaiming America" bus tour in Manchester, New Hampshire, organizers tell CNN.

The group's fifth national bus tour kicked off last week in California and will end in Tampa ahead of the CNN/Tea Party Express debate on September 12th. Thirty stops are on the bus tour's schedule.

Romney's appearance at the event is significant: he has not headlined any events in the Tea Party Express' previous four bus tours. Meanwhile, leaders of other tea party groups say they cannot recall any major tea party events that Romney has spoken to or attended since the movement began in 2009.

When contacted by CNN, Romney's campaign did not dispute that assertion, though a spokesman did stress that Romney has frequently met with tea party activists and supports their ideals of limited government, less spending and lower taxes.

Also, on the same day Romney addresses the Express rally, tea party booster Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina is holding a conservative forum in the state capital of Columbia. Among the GOP presidential candidates slated to attend are tea party favorites Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and conservative businessman Herman Cain. Romney turned down DeMint's invitation, citing scheduling conflicts.

In speaking about Romney's Labor Day appearance, Tea Party Express national spokesman Levi Russell and Chairman Amy Kremer also told CNN that all the Republican presidential candidates were invited to join the group's bus tour.

"The more access [tea party activists] have to these candidates to make an informed decision, the better chance that candidate has to win their support," Russell said.

In addition to declining DeMint's South Carolina invitation, Romney also declined to participate in another day's events that are dear to tea party activists: April 15's "Tax Day" protests.

In the weekend surrounding the traditional deadline for filing taxes - this year extended to April 18 - conservative activists rallied as they have in the past two years on "Tax Day." Bachmann, Cain, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and some other presidential contenders supported the protests by attending tea party rallies in person.

Romney decided to skip that weekend's events.

The former Massachusetts governor did, however, meet with tax filers around that time, his campaign told CNN. But that was not affiliated with the "Tax Day" protests.

"He was in Orlando. It was an H&R Block location. He had an event where he met with people who were filing their taxes and talked about the need to reform our tax code and to reduce taxes," said Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.

Also, on April 14, the Orlando Sentinel published an opinion piece from Romney in which he appeared to make overtures to the tea party.

"Almost two and a half centuries after the original Boston Tea Party of 1773, the idea of limited government that inspired our forebears is very much alive," Romney wrote.

Romney, only considering a presidential bid at the time, continued: "Thanks to the Tea Party, there's real hope that we can rein in our profligate federal government."

More recently, Romney said the tea party would support his presidential bid.

Speaking to the editorial board for New Hampshire's Foster's Daily Democrat, Romney said: "The tea party isn't a diversion from mainstream Republican thought."

"It is within mainstream Republican thought," Romney added. "And I want to appeal to the tea party voters. I don't know what folks here in New Hampshire would say, but my guess is most tea partiers, or a lot of them, would support my candidacy." He cited his experience in the private sector and fiscal conservatism.

And yet, Romney's relationship with the movement can be described as complicated, at best.

In a fresh CNN/ORC International poll, Romney lands in third-place among tea party supporters, suggesting he's not their favorite. In the survey, Perry gets 37-percent support from those conservative activists, Bachmann, 14-percent, and Romney 11-percent.

Meanwhile, tea party leaders tell CNN they cannot recall Romney ever speaking at tea party events.

Jenny Beth Martin is co-founder of the nation's largest tea party group, the Tea Party Patriots.

"I don't recall anything," she said. "Now that doesn't mean that he hasn't done something. But I don't recall him being at any tea party events."

Romney's spokesman was emphatic about the candidate's ties to activists and their causes.

"Gov. Romney has met with tea party activists across the country and was very active in the 2010 election cycle to help elect tea party minded candidates to both state and federal office," Williams said.

"Gov. Romney supports the principles of lower taxes, less spending and limited government that are supported by members of the tea party and by Republicans across the country. He intends to campaign on his pro-jobs message and focus on his efforts to reduce spending, limit government, and decrease taxes," Williams added.

Yet tea party leaders are unsure.

"I would say that there's not a lot of enthusiasm for him versus the other candidates," Martin said, also explaining that: "He definitely has taken positions that are contrary to what most tea party people consider important. I would even say he is in trouble with the tea party base – more because people are cautious about him and much more enthusiastic abut the some of the other candidates."

Martin cited tea party anger at the health care law passed in Massachusetts during Romney's term as governor. "'Obamacare' was modeled after 'Romneycare,'" she said.

Brendan Steinhauser, director of state and federal campaigns for tea party sponsor FreedomWorks, echoed similar sentiments.

"I don't know of any that he's participated in," Steinhauser said about Romney's involvement in tea party events. "I frankly don't know of any people that have invited him to any events."

Upon hearing that Romney would headline the upcoming Tea Party Express event on Labor Day, Steinhauser responded: "I would say it's probably smart politically to do that. It's a little Johnny-come-lately. But it shows we have influence. It'll be interesting to see how he's received or how people react."

– Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Tea Party movement
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Mary

    Tea Party? Can you say copycat to keep your head above water. Of course the media won't ask how long flip floppy has been involved with the Tea Party, two maybe three days..?

    August 30, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  2. Sandy Lester

    Why on earth would the Tea Party invite that liberal Romney?

    August 30, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. Jaywing

    Mittster - try breaking bread with some intelligent, thoughtful independents if you want to get elected. Sipping that poisonous brew the teabaggers are serving up will make you dizzy with stupidity and cause you to soil your magic underwear.

    August 30, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. Sandy Lester

    Lol. Romney is NOT a Christian he is a mormon. mormonISM is NOT Christianity.

    August 30, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. HiramHawk

    Mittens is about as "Tea Party" as Obama

    August 30, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  6. BinFL

    Well, this says it all...the Tea Party has offically taken over the Republican party. I'm not a Republican but at least it was a viable party when there were moderates in it. The only one left to cross over now is Huntsman...how long do you all think it will take him to do so? It is my hope that this now means that Obama's reelection is a done deal as I can't imagine a majority of Americans wanting these Teanuts to run our great country. Look how little time it took them to cause the first downgrade in our Nation's history. And, for those of you that blame our President for that, please come out of your "Fox" holes and join the real world!!!

    August 30, 2011 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I hope Mittens wears his kevlar shirt to the tea bagger party.

    August 30, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  8. Susan

    Maybe Romney is the wacko in all of this. Maybe he sees what the nation needs to get back its strength of character and security. Maybe he had better visit the Tea Party so they can see what a solid leader can do. Perry will be very much like Obama in that he'll not listen to any but his own. Romney is exactly what this nation needs. Someone that will listen to all and then lead like a true leader does. That means sometimes we get exactly what we hope for and sometimes we don't. What foolishness to think that all things have to be "our" way when you live in a nation of such diversity. Our diversty is our strength. Romney is conservative enough to keep the balance. I am so very tired of fringe "Me" people. Romney is not a panderer....he is really a realist who actually thinks about others. You don't move this economic crisis without the support of many. It will take a lot more than angry words and threats. It will take skill, vision, purpose and determination. Romney has more of that than any other blow hard. You think the tea party has their ire up; well right now the fringe on both sides of the isle are blowing off steam. Maybe all of us need to return to the College of Common Sense for a refresher course. I don't think Romney is a polished campaigner.....but I think he has a message that tops the rests.

    August 30, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. BeverlyNC

    That will be hilarious. An arrogant billionaire trying to speak down to a room full of uneducated racists who actually think they are Christians. Maybe God will stop in for the heresy and hypocrisy show.

    August 30, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. Bill

    So Romney's finally going to jump in with the Tea Party crowd? Say goodbye to what little chance you ever had of being President!

    August 30, 2011 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  11. Larry L

    The Tea Party offers a step back into the past – the Dark Ages. They remain opposed to science, environmental stewardship, racial or cultural diversity, religious tolerance, and any economic initiatives that actually help people build better lives in America. They are fearful, homophobic, xenophobic, white people who continue to create their own reality and support the politics of hate and divisiveness. I see the sound bites from "Democrat Class Warfare-Destroying..." and the hateful sound bites from right-wing radio pundits fill every paragraph. The truth remains obvious... Republicans broke this country and continue to fight efforts to revive it's economy and position in the world community. Most of the Tea Party folks voted for Bush twice! You fail to take responsibility for your actions.

    August 30, 2011 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Romney, a Mormon, in the mist of a bunch of Tbaggers who will never ever accept whether he's running for President or not.

    August 30, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  13. J

    That just blew him out of the race!

    August 30, 2011 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    "Ah, Mitt. So you've officially sold your soul. I hope you kept the reciept."

    Romney had a soul left to sell? Perhaps you should look at his record at Bain.

    I refuse to call him "weird"...nope...just won't do it...won't say that he's "wierd"...just wouldn't be appropriate to call him "weird."

    August 30, 2011 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  15. Marie MD

    Wow! The only thing going for him was that we knew he was a flip flop per who bent whichever way the wind was blowing now he is into teabagging. Probably more his style

    August 30, 2011 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  16. Russ

    Democrat Class Warfare? What the hell are you talking about. Wait, I get it. The Democrats are waging war on the Rich class. There isn't much left in the other classes that your fat Repubicans haven't already taken away so you can't mean the poor or middle class.

    August 30, 2011 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. Publius Novus

    Let's see. Mr. Mittens has fallen behind in the polls by double digits. Therefore, it is time to suck up to the extreme right wing of the GOP–the Tea Patsies. This should be good. If Mr. Mittens somehow regains the lead, it will be a long, difficult, and slippery journey back to the center-right. But hey, he's done it before! Pander on Mr. Mittens.

    August 30, 2011 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  18. Laverne

    Ahh, desperation will cause him the nomintation and he deserves to lose it because he is a lying, flip flopping, nerd who doesn't even deserve to be someone dog walker. He should go occupy some more of this time renovating another one of his very expensive homes and leave America alone, did not want you in 2008 and 2012 will be no different!

    August 30, 2011 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  19. steven harnack

    Every time that I hear or see that "reclaim America" I take it as a direct slap in my face. Just who do they think elected President Obama? I'm really sick of them acting like we have stolen something that rightfully belongs to them.

    August 30, 2011 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. NoTags

    In 2012 the voters will remember it was the tea party members that caused the credit rating of the U.S. to be downgraded and they will be out the door. The tea party ends in 2012!

    August 30, 2011 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. kayla

    send in the clown

    August 30, 2011 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
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