Opinion Brief

Can Mitt Romney win over the Tea Party?

The establishment candidate courts grassroots activists wary of his record. Can he convince them to give him another chance?

In a bid to counter Texas Gov. Rick Perry's surge in the polls, Mitt Romney is making his first appearance at a major Tea Party event this weekend. The former Massachusetts governor will meet the Tea Party Express bus tour at a stop in New Hampshire, then head to South Carolina for Tea Party hero Sen. Jim DeMint's Labor Day candidate forum, an event Romney originally planned to skip. He faces an uphill battle: Tea Partiers are as wary of Romney as he's been of them and FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group, plans to protest in New Hampshire. Can an establishment candidate like Romney win over activists demanding a small-government revolution?

Romney is not fooling anybody: Romney is "acting out of obvious political expediency", says Allahpundit at Hot Air. His record is still a huge turn off for principled conservatives, and he wouldn't be doing this if Perry weren't ahead by double digits in the polls. Tea Partiers might back him if he becomes the GOP nominee, "but why give him cover when Perry, Bachmann, and probably soon Palin are all in contention"?"Tea-party group to protest other tea-party group's event because Romney is speaking"

Actually, this might help erode Perry's appeal: Cozying up to the Tea Party Express can't hurt, says Evan McMorris-Santoro at Talking Points Memo. With certain issues, including immigration and government mandates, "the ties that bind Perry to the Tea Party could be at least stretched if not broken all together." And the electability argument (Romney fares better than Perry in matchups with President Obama) could work wonders with Tea Partiers who think "Obama is some kind of nefarious socialist.""Tea for '12: Mitt Romney suddenly finds time for the Tea Party"

All Romney is doing is fracturing the Tea Party: Romney's "ObamaCare"-like health plan in Massachusetts is "considered antithetical" to what the Tea Party stands for, says Alex Altman at TIME, and this little flirtation is splitting the Tea Party in two, with FreedomWorks — which wants to defend its brand "against poseurs" — severing ties with the Tea Party Express tour. If the movement is really about freedom and education, shouldn't FreedomWorks let Tea Partiers "size Romney up for themselves"? "Romney at the center of a Tea Party spat"

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