Major tea party group to protest Romney tea party debut
August 31st, 2011
12:11 PM ET
3 years ago

Major tea party group to protest Romney tea party debut

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – National tea party sponsor FreedomWorks announced Wednesday it will protest Mitt Romney's debut at a major tea party event in New Hampshire this Sunday.

The group accused the Republican presidential candidate of suddenly "pandering" to conservative activists "because he's getting challenged from [Minnesota Rep. Michele] Bachmann and [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry and even [Texas Rep.] Ron Paul."

FreedomWorks' actions at the Tea Party Express rally in Concord could spark some unusual infighting amongst conservatives. The result may be some Republicans lining up against Romney on the campaign trail and some tea partiers publicly opposing other tea partiers.

A Romney spokesman did not respond to the harsh claims against Romney or the protest promise when questioned.

But on Monday, after CNN reported that Romney would headline his first major tea party event, spokesman Ryan Williams said: "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 continued: "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."

Romney's joining the Tea Party Express on its nationwide bus tour is a key sticking point.

Initially the former Massachusetts governor was confirmed to speak at an Express rally on Monday in Manchester. But the campaign switched course on that decision. Instead, Romney's campaign now says the candidate will speak at the Express' Sunday rally in Concord. The campaign also announced that Romney would attend a conservative gathering in South Carolina on Monday, an invitation he at first had declined.

Romney's speaking slot at the tea party rally incensed FreedomWorks organizers. The group's director of federal and state campaigns, Brendan Steinhauser, explained when they first learned of Romney's upcoming speech.

"The whole staff learned once we read the article that [CNN] posted...That's when it got out to [FreedomWorks president and CEO Matt Kibbe] and everybody," Steinhauser said. "We had a discussion on our staff about it. And Matt was pretty adamant that this is just something that we've got to distance ourselves from."

In a statement, the Express responded to the protest plans.

"We've been very clear that this presidential tour is open to presidential candidates who want to speak to the tea party, and many candidates have confirmed they will attend. This is their chance to make their case to the tea party audience about why they deserve support from the tea party movement," national spokesman Levi Russell wrote.

Russell added: "It's just silly to protest a tea party where Governor Romney is speaking. …Narrow mindedness is not the way to strengthen the tea party movement."

"We view this move by FreedomWorks at best as a misguided press stunt, and are disappointed at the disingenuous approach taken after we have made every effort to be inclusive and accommodating on our national bus tour," Russell wrote.

Freedomworks President Kibbe explained the general opposition to Romney.

"We've said all along that Mitt Romney's positions on key economic issues – particularly on health care and cap and trade – are anathema to the core issues that animate the tea party movement," Kibbe told CNN. "And we felt like we needed to speak up early and often in hopes of finding a more acceptable candidate in the Republican primary."

Meanwhile, Steinhauser explained the specific opposition to Romney being given a slot to speak at the Express rally.

"Because it provides cover to him as a tea party candidate, which he's not," Steinhauser said.

Steinhauser then made claims about Romney's motives.

"Because he's pandering. Because now he's getting challenged from [Minnesota Rep. Michele] Bachmann and [Texas Gov. Rick] Perry and even [Texas Rep.] Ron Paul – all legitimate conservative tea party candidates – and he's trying to protect his right flank," Steinhauser said.

Kibbe signed on to that line of thinking, saying: "I think it looks like political opportunism, certainly."

– Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Tea Party movement
soundoff (57 Responses)
  1. Lost in Texas FOREVER

    a Tea Party protest by Tea Party folks at a Tea Party rally? What some groups that only have a 28% approval rating won't do just to get a little attention.

    August 31, 2011 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  2. AEK

    And is anybody really surprised that Mr. Romney would start pandering to the Tea Party? This is a man with no shame. He has destroyed American businesses and shipped American jobs overseas in pursuit of money. As a candidate he couldn't find a consistent policy stance if his life depended on it. On a much more positive note for the people of the United States who really care about their country, it is so nice to see the radicals shooting it out in the national spotlight!

    August 31, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  3. thomas

    This is a great look at how an out of touch corporate CEO communicates with the irrational misinformed !

    August 31, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. FactCheck

    The Tea Party thinks that Rick Perry is a fiscal conservative? The same Rick Perry that signed into law the Business Margin Tax (the largest tax increase in the history of Texas) in 2006? The guy who raised state tax from 4.1% to 6.25%?? The same fellow who, in 2010, raised taxes on small businesses that were used to pay for incentives for big refineries??? That Rick Perry???

    Looks like some of these folks need to do some reading before spouting off Fox talking points.

    August 31, 2011 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Grundoon

    The Tea Party poll numbers are the lowest of the low. *snicker* The Tea Party is going to get spanked in 2012!!!!!

    August 31, 2011 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. The Prince of Common Cents

    Tea anyone? One lump or two?

    August 31, 2011 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh, Mitty. You really ought to have seen this coming. Good luck with the pandering. Can't say it's added much to your presidential hopes, though. Unless being made a fool of comes naturally to you. It is what it is - best accept it and move on.

    August 31, 2011 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  8. vic , nashville ,tn

    First GOP candidates they don’t why they are running for office now they want to win nomination With Tea party support may be they can win the party nomination.

    GOP candidates or republicans or tea partiers doesn’t have long term solution

    August 31, 2011 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. Phil in KC

    So, if Mitt manages to get himself nominated, whatever will the Tea Party do? They don't like Mitt and they hate Obama. What a conundrum!

    August 31, 2011 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. Randy, San Francisco

    Amazing that a conservative like Romney cannot pass the purity test. Appears that ony extreme social and fiscal candidates have a chance to win the GOP/Tea Party presidential nomination.

    August 31, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Kelcy

    The problem with Romney from the view point of the teapartiers will be that he is not viewed as a christian. Teapartiers are overwhelming evangelical christians. They view mormonism as a cult and most assuredly not part of the christian religion. So Romney is barking up the wrong tree on this one.

    August 31, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. Lolo

    These tea party people are really out in space., like Palin, Bachmann and Perry. No wonder they like them so much. None of them make any sense at all. People stick to what we have as president now. These loons are definitely out in lala land. In order to get their votes you have to be crazy too and we want adults to run America not scatter- brained nuts who follow which ever way the wind blows for them to lead. Just nuts.

    August 31, 2011 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. John

    Perry is the Christine O'Donnell of the 2012 election season.

    August 31, 2011 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  14. Irrma in North Carolina

    The tea party people are nothing but a self centered racist, the go about spreading lies and hate. They all need to get out of this country.

    August 31, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. The Elephant in The Room

    Mitt –

    The Tea Party is universally against healthcare reform. Your little "dance" about having the right to call for an individual mandate because it was a Mass-level plan instead of a national one, just doesn`t fly.

    If the Tea Party has any principles, you won`t get support until you DENOUNCE RomneyCare. If they accept you then they are implicitly accepting ObamaCare.

    Oh yeah GOP, where`s your repeal & Replace legislation? You claimed that, like the Democrats, you "got it" that Healthcare reforms were needed and that as soon as you got in office, you`d do it [reform] the "right" way.

    The fact is if the Democrats hadn`t put a spotlight on the problem, you`d still be denying it. You still have no ideas, no solutions. You are not a party worthy of leadership. We call see how much work you`ve done to develop a "replacement". Like Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, I guess this was empty campaign rhetoric too, ehh?

    August 31, 2011 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  16. notbobslc

    As expected the liberals are all about marginalizing the tea party, calling them crazy even though they are a valid and politically involved group of fellow citizens. Im sure the liberals would love to see a one party state. Perry, Romney and Bachman are all johnny come latelies to the tea party – Ron Paul is the grand old man of fiscal responsibility and serving the people. But then that would require liberals to have a brain and use it!

    August 31, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  17. bob

    Wow - the Tea Partiers love to protest so much they even protest against themselves. They certainly are a bitter, irritable group. Let's hope they - and their Republican compatriots - can take enough time out from beating each other up to come up with some actual ideas and solutions rather than their usual pablum. To their credit, they are at lease calling out Mitt the Weathervane as the panderer he is (I live in Massaschusetts and saw him blow in the wind throughout his governorship).

    August 31, 2011 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  18. WTF!

    Mitt Romney should know, that a espresso drinker and teabag drinker don't mix.

    August 31, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. Mark

    The Tea PArty nutjobs are the one screaming the loudest. That's not suprising since niose echo's more when standing in an empty room. They are a dangerous group and I hope they are so dissapointed come next November.

    August 31, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  20. C. Howe Yulikit

    So apparently the Tea Party also disapproves of the Tea Party along with the overwhelming majority of Americans.

    August 31, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  21. ted

    The Tea Party vs The Tea Party vs The Grand Obstructionist Party. The Republican party is going to implode. Good. They deserve it.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    August 31, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  22. rs

    Whoops! More "friendly fire" in the GOP/TP ranks.
    If it weren't for the fact this messy process and Lemming-like Republicans are trying to get the most powerful job in our land, THIS MIGHT BE FUNNY!

    August 31, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  23. Aeromechanic.

    You go Mitt, Get in there and worship at their altar. Lick their feet and kiss their you know whats. Pander to a group that you have no association with.

    Right on!

    August 31, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  24. DD

    Ron Paul is the only person in Congress who can be trusted. He has stood by his convictions even when the rest of the political arena is against him and while the mainstream media tries to portray him as a whacko or pretends he just doesn't exist. If people actually listened to his logic rather than just reading the media headlines, everyone would see that he is actually brilliant and makes a lot of sense.

    August 31, 2011 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  25. The Real Tom Paine

    Just remember the sign outside the GOP/TP HQ:

    Mormons/Blacks/Women need not apply for the presidency, but send us your money anyway. We need to keep up the illusion we are inclusive long enough to win back the White House, so your stupidity and collusion are greatly appreciated.

    August 31, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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