Tea Party groups: Bachmann should stay in the race

The leaders of several Tea Party groups have risen to Rep. Michele Bachmann’s defense after American Majority president Ned Ryun called for her to drop out of the presidential race.

Two days ago, Ryun authored a post on the American Majority blog that criticized Bachmann for riding her Tea Party credentials from obscurity to a national platform “like no other,” for focusing too intensely on social issues and for purporting to speak for a grassroots movement that “has no spokesperson.” Ryun wrote:

It’s time for Michele Bachmann to go. …

In Bachmann’s case, it is clear that the campaign has become less about reform and more about her personal effort to stay relevant and sell books; a harsh commentary, but true.  It’s not about tea party values or championing real plans to solve real problems.  While other campaigns are diving into the substance, the supposed tea party candidate Bachmann is sticking to thin talking points and hanging on for dear life.

Every day the campaign flounders, it risks hurting the credibility of the movement.  If she really is about the tea party, and making it successful, it’s time for the Congresswoman to move on.  The Tea Party doesn’t have a spokesperson, and it’s certainly not Michele Bachmann.

But leaders of FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots and the Tea Party Nation told The Daily Caller they disagree with Ryun:

  • FreedomWorks’ Brendan Steinhauser said: “I think people want them to compete to see who emerges. I don’t think it’s helpful to ask any of these guys to drop out. At least let them compete in Iowa,” after which point, he noted, the field would likely narrow itself.”
  • Tea Party Express’ Sal Russo echoed Steinhauser: “Voters are still moving around — they’re not locked in yet, so I don’t think we’re at a point yet where we have to narrow the field.”
  • Tea Party Patriots’ Mark Meckler focused on American Majority itself: “I find it odd that a group that claims to be a ‘training institute’ would call for such a thing. It doesn’t seem to be within their mission as stated on their website, and it certainly isn’t anything I’m hearing regularly from the ‘grassroots’ whom they claim to serve.”
  • And Tea Party Nation’s Judson Phillips had kind words for Bachmann: “Michele Bachmann is a passionate, articulate and graceful voice in this movement. It is not up to a Washington insider to tell her when she should or should not leave the race. Nor is it their place to pronounce that she is harming this movement.”
Pretty easy to know whose side to take in this. The leaders of the four Tea Party groups above have it right. Bachmann’s voice adds to the race. She’s consistently conservative on both fiscal and social issues, was one of the few who actually said “no” to TARP at the time and knows Obamacare — both the legislation and the fight against it — better than virtually anyone. It’s particularly rich of Ryun, a Perry supporter, to criticize the disorder of the Bachmann campaign. What candidate hasn’t struggled to refine strategy, other than, perhaps, Mitt Romney, whose “outlast everybody else” strategy has exasperated countless GOP voters?
Finally, as easy as it is to think Bachmann has already had her turn as the “flavor of the week” and is unlikely to surge again, the campaign trail repeatedly proves itself to be unpredictable. Best to retain truly conservative options as long as possible.
That said, Ryun’s post does serve as a useful reminder that the Tea Party movement is, in fact, a grassroots movement. Unlike the OWS movement, which seems to have started with any number of issues and tried to whittle them down, the Tea Party has first focused on overspending and gradually expanded to other issues. But a call to restrain out-of-control government spending should continue to be the message the GOP hypes in 2012. It’s at the core of the country’s joblessness and, frankly, contributes to social problems, too, as welfare programs promote crippling dependency. If his post does no more than to remind Bachmann and others to speak first to overspending and then to other issues — at least in campaign settings — then it will certainly have done more good than harm.