Just call them … mavericks.

The organizers of the four largest Arizona Tea Party organizations – including the Tucson Tea Party, Greater Phoenix Tea Party, Flagstaff Tea Party, and Mohave County Tea Party – issued a joint press release regarding their unified decision to decline endorsing a candidate in the Arizona Senate primary race between John McCain, J.D. Hayworth, and Jim Deakin.

“The Tea Party is a non-partisan, grassroots movement that stands for limited government, free markets, and fiscal responsibility. Both McCain and Hayworth’s records during their many years in Washington leave much to be desired on these issues,” said Robert Mayer, co-founder of the Tucson Tea Party. “It is their job to hold themselves up to these values and fight for our votes.”…

“It is not appropriate to make an endorsement in this race at the drop of a hat, as some other groups are doing,” said Kelly Townsend, organizer of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party. “The movement must stand for ideas, and do everything possible to provide information to people so that they can make the best personal decisions.”

A shrewd move, actually. Commenters in Headlines were speculating that this was meant as a statement that Birthers aren’t welcome in the tea party ranks, but I don’t think that’s the point. (Or rather, not the main point.) Hayworth voted for Bush’s Medicare prescription-drug bill and for the bridge to nowhere; by refusing to back him against the RINOiest RINO of them all, they’re making a statement that endorsees have to be pure in the abstract, not just purer than the alternative. Or, as Beck put it at CPAC in addressing Dick Cheney, “It’s not enough just to not suck as much as the other side.” By picking this race to lay down that marker, they’re implicitly saying they’d rather see John McCain back in the Senate than compromise their principles on a less-than-optimal challenger. Strong stuff. I wonder if Beck — and the boss emeritus — agree.

As for who is pure enough to get the endorsement, aside from these guys, I’m not sure. Doesn’t really matter, though: The Arizona TP leaders know that most of their members will vote for Hayworth anyway, and the caveat in the blockquote about not endorsing “at the drop of a hat” suggests they might weigh in for him later at a opportune moment if he’s within striking distance. Exit question: Was this also aimed obliquely at Palin, who obviously doesn’t have the same qualms about McCain that TPers do?