Thursday, August 18, 2011

Romney Courts Tea Party

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 20:  Republican preside...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Faced with growing grass-roots momentum for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney launched a charm offensive of sorts on Wednesday, casting himself as a friend of the tea party that otherwise probably would oppose him.

Romney met with 25 steelworkers in northern New Hampshire and fielded a question about whether he considers himself a member of the tea party.

"I don't know that you sign a membership," replied Romney. "What I consider myself is someone who is in sync with the tea party.”

mitt romney new hampshire tea partyThat remark was just the latest indication Romney may seek to blur the distinction between the establishment and grass-roots wings of the Republican Party. Observers say he may not need to win a lot of tea party support as long as he can blunt tea partyers' active opposition.

Romney already has earned the grudging respect of one key tea party leader in Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

Chaffetz, the popular tea party figure who is weighing a primary challenge against incumbent GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, has endorsed Romney.

“Mitt Romney is in the best position to beat Barack Obama,” Chaffetz said, explaining his endorsement, “and I really want to beat Barack Obama.”

With a few more staunch conservatives like Chaffetz in his corner, Romney's strategy may prove formidable, some pundits say.

“I do see Romney making headway with the tea party, but later in the race as the ‘electable’ candidates winnow down,” pollster and syndicated columnist Matt Towery tells Newsmax. “I’m getting a sense that Romney is much like George W. Bush in 2000 — at first, the darling of the establishment; later, the hero of conservatives.”

So far, the consensus is that, as long as Romney is up against Rep. Michele Bachmann, Perry, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul — who trailed Bachmann by only a razor-thin 152 votes in the Iowa Straw Poll — he won’t find much oxygen left under the tea party tent.

But singing the tea party tune could still bring him political benefits, according to Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler.

“Tea party values are carrying the day right now,” Meckler tells Newsmax. “Romney has to appeal to that regardless of whether he thinks he’s the tea party guy. He’s got to speak to those values, or he doesn’t have a chance.”

As for how simpatico Romney is with the tea party, Meckler states: “In recent weeks, he’s said things that I wouldn’t say are in sync with the tea party. Like expressing his support for the concept of man-made global warming. That’s not in synch with most people in the tea party.

“Also, his position on forced energy efficiency is not in sync with the tea party. So he’s got positions, that I don’t think are in sync with the tea party, that he has stated openly in recent weeks.”

That suggests Romney may have to sip a lot more tea on the campaign trail before he can expect to garner significant grass-roots support.

In fact, one grass-roots group, Western Representation PAC, already has launched an anybody-but-Romney campaign called “Stop Romney.”

FreedomWorks has expressed strong opposition to him as well, warning that a Romney nomination could discourage many tea party members from taking an activist role in 2012.

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