Tea par­ty­ers stop fight­ing Rom­ney

Free­dom­works: Time to unify

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY RALPH Z. HAL­LOW

The or­ga­ni­za­tion that ig­nited the tea party as a na­tional mass move­ment gave Mitt Rom­ney per­haps his big­gest vic­tory yet, de­cid­ing to drop its op­po­si­tion to his can­di­dacy, a top ex­ec­u­tive in the group told The Washington Times.

Free­dom­works, which or­ga­nized the Sept. 12, 2009, mass demon­stra­tion on the Mall, says that while it will not give an ex­plicit en­dorse­ment, the time has come for Repub­li­cans to unite around the for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor and fo­cus on de­feat­ing Pres­i­dent Obama.

“It is a sta­tis­ti­cal fact that the num­bers fa­vor Mitt Rom­ney,” Free­dom­works Vice Pres­i­dent Russ Walker told The Times on Tues­day. “We are ded­i­cated to de­feat­ing Obama and elect-

ing a con­ser­va­tive Se­nate that will help Rom­ney repeal Oba­macare and ad­dress the na­tion’s eco­nomic and spend­ing chal­lenges.”

Mr. Rom­ney has been win­ning a ma­jor­ity of del­e­gates and has more than twice the num­ber that for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum has, and he con­tin­ued that run Tues­day with a vic­tory in Illi­nois.

Exit polls in Illi­nois showed Mr. Rom­ney won among those who said they sup­port the tea party move­ment, edg­ing out Mr. San­to­rum 43 per­cent to 37 per­cent — the same mar­gin as Mr. Rom­ney won those who were neu­tral on the tea party.

The Illi­nois re­sults marked an im­prove­ment for Mr. Rom­ney. In Ohio, Mr. San­to­rum had won tea party sup­port­ers, and the two men had es­sen­tially tied among tea par­ty­ers in Michi­gan. In each of those states, some­where be­tween 52 per­cent and 59 per­cent of pri­mary vot­ers said they ei­ther “strongly” or “some­what” sup­port the move­ment.

None of the four can­di­dates re­main­ing in the 2012 Re­pub­li­can nom­i­na­tion bat­tle started out on Free­dom­works’ most-wanted list, and Mr. Walker’s or­ga­ni­za­tion, which had tried to de­rail Mr. Rom­ney’s nom­i­na­tion ef­fort, isn’t telling any tea par­tyer ex­plic­itly to vote for any can­di­date in par­tic­u­lar.

“We have mem­bers that sup­ported all the can­di­dates, in­clud­ing Mitt Rom­ney,” Mr. Walker said. “Each of the can­di­dates has weak­nesses and strengths.”

The tea party is a “lead­er­less move­ment, so it will be up to in­di­vid­u­als to de­cide when and where they put their sup­port,” Mr. Walker said.

The for­mer con­gress­man from Texas, who is Free­dom­works’ chair­man, had a list of names that could ex­cite his or­ga­ni­za­tion, but none de­cided to join the fray.

“As long as a year ago Dick Armey pri­vately and pub­licly en­cour­aged [In­di­ana Rep.] Mike Pence, [South Carolina Sen.] Jim Demint, [Wis­con­sin Rep.] Paul Ryan and [In­di­ana Gov.] Mitch Daniels to run for the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion,” Mr. Walker said. “We take di­rec­tion from our mem­bers who early in the pri­mary asked us to not to back any one can­di­date.”

Some con­ser­va­tives will see Free­dom­works as break­ing away from an “any­one but Rom­ney” stand to “let’s unite the Re­pub­li­can Party be­hind Rom­ney” stand in or­der to de­feat Mr. Obama in Novem­ber.

For ex­am­ple, Free­dom­works or­ga­nized a protest in Au­gust among its grass-roots mem­bers against Mr. Rom­ney’s ad­dress­ing a Tea Party Ex­press rally in New Hamp­shire. He also alien­ated Free­dom­works by, among other things, sup­port­ing the Trou­bled As­set Re­lief Pro­gram dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The change also re­flects the de­sire of lo­cal Free­dom­works chap­ters to re­fo­cus the nom­i­na­tion con­test on eco­nomic is­sues such as jobs, gaso­line prices, spend­ing, debt and the fed­eral bud­get deficit. Some key Illi­nois con­ser­va­tives also see Mr. San­to­rum’s fo­cus on so­cial is­sues such as ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and re­li­gious ob­jec­tions to con­tra­cep­tion as a dis­trac­tion.

“San­to­rum has spent a great deal of time here talk­ing about so­cial is­sues,” said Deme­tra De­Monte, the na­tional sec­re­tary of Re­pub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee and a mem­ber from Illi­nois. “This would ex­plain Rom­ney’s per­for­mance among tea par­ties to­day in Illi­nois.”

Matt Kibbe, Free­dom­works pres­i­dent, also has told con­ser­va­tives out­side his or­ga­ni­za­tion that it’s time to unite be­hind some­one and build the lo­cal ma­chin­ery to take on Mr. Obama.

“It’s hard to fig­ure out how some­one other than Mitt Rom­ney wins at this point,” Mr. Kibbe told ra­dio host Glenn Beck. “He’s got the num­bers on his side.”

Mr. Kibbe said that while Mr. Rom­ney has “flaws,” he has great strength in his suc­cess­ful man­age­ment of busi­nesses and can beat Mr. Obama in Novem­ber.

“We feel it’s time to shift our at­ten­tion to de­feat­ing Obama and be­gin the dif­fi­cult task of tak­ing back the Se­nate,” Mr. Walker said. “No mat­ter which Re­pub­li­can wins the White House, that per­son will need a strong re­form cau­cus in the Se­nate and House to move a pro-growth eco­nomic agenda. Our goal has al­ways been fo­cused on build­ing that re­form cau­cus and win­ning back the Se­nate.”

But some tea party en­thu­si­asts in Illi­nois aren’t ready to buy the “co­a­lesce” theme.

“I sup­ported San­to­rum and voted for him in the Illi­nois pri­mary to­day,” said Joe Mor­ris, an as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral dur­ing the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion. “I ap­proached the whole field — Rom­ney, Newt Gin­grich, Jon Hunts­man (re­mem­ber him?), Ron Paul, San­to­rum — with an open mind and a la­bo­ri­ous process of elim­i­na­tion led me to the vote that I cast.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

WIN­NING SMILE: Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hopeful Mitt Rom­ney greets sup­port­ers at his elec­tion night rally in Schaum­burg, Ill. He won the state pri­mary Tues­day by a com­fort­able mar­gin.

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