Eric Cantor: The tea party's better off as a grassroots movement, not a House caucus

I’m not sure if this is heartfelt or merely a devilishly clever excuse for not joining a caucus that promises plenty of media headaches for its membership, but I’m curious to see what the HA faithful think. Bachmann’s tea-party cred is as solid as they come, but Cantor’s got a point. This was supposed to be a bottom-up, anti-Beltway movement, no?

The second-ranking House Republican told POLITICO on Tuesday that he’s not joining the group started by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) because he sees it as more of an organic, grass-roots movement rather than a Washington entity.

Cantor praised Bachmann for providing “another avenue for people to have their voices heard” but said he thinks the tea party is better left outside Washington.

“I met with several of groups that operated under that moniker in Virginia; they’re not all uniform,” Cantor said in his third-floor Capitol office. “That’s part of the beauty of the tea party movement; it’s organic. And it’s certainly not Washington. So I think it’s better left with the people.”

Bachmann’s putting together an initial membership list right now; it won’t be released until 9 a.m. CT tomorrow morning, but according to the MinnPost, at last check the early adopters include Pence, Pete Hoekstra, Pete Sessions (the head of the NRCC, do note), Paul Broun of Georgia, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, John Carter of Texas, Cliff Stearns of Florida, Dan Burton of Indiana and John Culberson of Texas. Conspicuously absent from the list: John Boehner, whose spokesman reminded Politico that as a rule Boehner doesn’t join caucuses (aside from the House Republican Caucus, natch). Boehner and Cantor, of course, can’t afford to hug tea partiers too closely lest it alienate some of the centrist members they may need to push legislation through if the GOP takes back the House. Sessions, as the quarterback of the Republican House campaign effort, obviously is more voter-oriented and thus chose differently. Exit question: The Tea Party Caucus — important mouthpiece for grassroots conservatives in the halls of power or unnecessary co-optation of the TP brand?