Major tea party group to protest Romney tea party debut
August 31st, 2011
12:11 PM ET
7 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. doug

    CNN censors the truth again, that is all the proof needed of your liberal bias. Lies and Hate over truth and facts=Democrats.

    August 31, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  2. rick

    Does the Tea Party even know who they support, it changes every week, Are they not doing the same thing they supposedly are against, Candidates kiss their butt, because they want their money. Part of the reason I do not support the tea party is because they endorse candidates like Palin, Are they not smart enough to know when they are being used, remember she QUIT!!, and went for the money, and they still think she is the best thing since sliced bread, simply because she uses catch phrases and tours the country putting down our President and Government and laughs all the way to the bank.
    Also they keep blaming Obama on this as it is all of his fault, let's not forget how and who started this mess, and who did the first bail-outs, the truth is their is no quick fix. it will take years, I agree we need smarter spending, but be careful what you wish for and let's not forget the good things they do. and remember you never know when you may need some type of assistance.

    August 31, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. Greg

    Perry endorsed the only pro-abortion candiate in 2008, choosing Giuliani over Huckabee, McCain and others. Perry also has grown government in Texas at a rate higher than the federal government has gronw during the same 10-year period. As a tea partier myself, I am disgusted by Rick Perry's record. I am nor Romney fan, but he actually has a better tea party record than Perry does, but people just don't know much about Perry's record yet.

    August 31, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  4. doug

    Every American with decency in their hearts who doesn't wish harm upon those who they disagree with will unite to vote against Obama. The action of one tea party or republican is the responsibility of every American right of center, well ok then you Democrats are responsible for your leftist freaks and all of the terrorism they counduct on their own nation (code pink national workers seiu ETC), let's play your little game cnn and the ticker libs.

    Even after the devistation of a hurricane these Democrats in the northeast cannot take a break from their selfish hate and act Republican, they just cannot waiver from their Jersey Shore Democrat way of spewing hate 24/7 and having a total disregard for the lives of their fellow Americans as proven by the actions on the roads in the bluest parts of this country.

    August 31, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  5. Bill

    Protesting someone who is coming to talk to you about their philosophy and hear your concerns isn't a very productive use of your time, especially if they believe and espouse 80% of what you believe. There are real issues to protest if you must protest.

    August 31, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Ahh... Poor Willard... Whattsamatta... Not Tea-ee enough for the Tea Party? Maybe you need to bring you little chair and dolls to be accepted...

    August 31, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  7. Bill, NY

    The Tea Party proves over and over again that the issue of mental illness must be addressed on a national level.

    August 31, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  8. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    It's hard to believe that Mitt could ever be accused of pandering to anyone... Uhh... ok... Not that hard...

    August 31, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  9. Recovering Republican

    I thought the Tea Party was all about freedom. We now know they only support their version of freedom, as sanctioned by the Tea Party leaders in secret meetings. They must have a faulty dictionary. Evangelic Christians are not known for their tolerance, or foregiveness. I guess those are just not Christian traits.

    August 31, 2011 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  10. Recovering Republican

    Romney vs. the Tea Party. Sounds like the Stupid Olympics just got under way. Obama must be laughing his rear off.

    August 31, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  11. John

    It sure be the smartest thing that ever happen to Mitt Romney. The Tea Party Is a Bunch of Crap and only back Dumb People.

    August 31, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  12. Clwyd

    Tea Party-Sme Party! What does it matter? The republican party is so splintered now it doesn't have a change in 2012 locally or nationally!

    August 31, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Voice of Reason

    The Tea-vangelicals are late to the game. They should have been hating Romney like 6 months ago, back when he was talking sense. But now – he's gotten onto the same 'Blame Obama for everything, but dont offer any solutions' and cut-taxes-till-the-nation-bellds-green bandwagon. So they should be loving him. He's catering to their bizarre worldview, and spouting the idiotic platitudes, which seems to be what drives Tea-vangelicals wild...

    Maybe he should promise $2/gallon gasoline...

    August 31, 2011 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. Texas Doc

    Gotta love it. I say cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war. I hope they destroy eachother.

    August 31, 2011 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. Chedar

    The Tea Party can keep the Loone Tunes (Backmann and Perry). In all due respect Romney won't be able to beat Obama in 2012. The only hope the republican have is to nominate Gev Jon Huntsman to beat Obama in 2012

    August 31, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  16. logic in LA

    Glad-hand mitt and the zealots at odds. HA! It shows how far right the Tea Party really is. What's amazing is thye are BOTH out of touch with America!

    August 31, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. Publius Novus

    LMAO. The Tea Party needs to man up, register as a political party with the various states and the FEC, and run its own candidates. This baloney of piggy-backing on the GOP is dishonest, lazy, and deceptive. If you want a third party, then make a third party.

    August 31, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  18. MiddleOfTheRoad

    Someone please help the republican party. There is no leadership. It's just a mob of angry people.

    August 31, 2011 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  19. Larry567

    Isn't the GOP doing a lovely job of destroying itself from within. Keep it up banjo country, you are the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic party and Mr. Obama.

    August 31, 2011 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. FactCheck

    Why does Romney even care about these dolts? Is he really that desperate for their 18% of the vote?

    August 31, 2011 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  21. Soljer Blue

    Romney's in trouble. He knows he's in trouble. The left can complain all it wants about conservatives not liking his religion. That's just another lefty canard. He is a corporatist, an opportunist, and no amount of shirtsleeve pandering to the conservative base will change that. His religion has zippidy-do-dah to do with it.

    August 31, 2011 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. Tom in the Great NW

    ..Did you think that you could PENETRATE THOSE WOODEN HEADS? After all, they care nothing about business and jobs – THEY SIMPLY WANT TO PLACE A Dubya-type CANDIDATE in the running. YOU ARE TOO HUMAN, TOO INTELLIGENT!
    ..And Mitt, you have served A FULL TERM as Governor, YOU HAVE NOT PRACTICED WITCHCRAFT (or teanut-CRAFT).
    ..And Mitt, you would never have attempted to DOWNGRADE THE US CREDIT RATING SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU COULD!!

    August 31, 2011 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  23. Republican who supports President Obama

    Time for tar and feathers for him and the rest of the GOP field. If they want to revert back to the 1700's then they should face the treatment given to those not in favor back then too. Tar and feathers.

    August 31, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. once upon a horse

    I am not a fan of the Tea Party nor Mitt Romney but in a way it's good they are calling him out on his pandering. If you haven't noticed Romney will do or say anything to try to get elected. I am sure many in the GOP have noticed this. He flip/flops more than my kids beach shoes. And to have a Tea Partier call him out on this is even MORE fun.

    August 31, 2011 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Aaron

    I have views strongly in line with the typical Tea Party idealists, though I don't call myself a Tea Partier. I also believe Romney to be far more conservative than most Tea Party idealists because I look at the situation of action as much as the action. Romney was a strongly conservative anchor against an 85% blue-blooded MA. So, I would suggest the Tea Partiers to actually take a moment and listen. If they will look past biased (both left and right) rhetoric, read his book "No Apology" they may see much more right in what he says.

    August 31, 2011 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
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