Some NH Tea Party Members Still Not Sold On Romney
Some prominent NH Tea Party members see him as the man to beat Obama, but others say he falls short.
Mitt Romney will need to watch his step around a particular political group, because they seem to hate being tread on.
The Tea Party movement has a message that has been made loud and clear the past few years: fiscal responsibility, personal liberty and constitutional rights. They claim not to blindly follow either party, which means Romney will need to be more than just a Republican or “Not-Obama.”
Some think he can do it, others are not so sure.
“Has Romney won me over? No is the answer,” said Jerry DeLemus, former chairman of the Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC and the founder of the Rochester 9-12 Project.
New Hampshire has been known to have many liberty-minded citizens, and in that spirit, DeLemus has taken the liberty of withholding his vote for Romney.
Why? Because he claims Romney has been ignoring Tea Party-affiliated liberty groups in the state, such as his, and has not been making an effort to really show where he stands on their issues.
He said that he has gone to great lengths to reach out to Romney in order to get him to talk to Tea Partiers beyond political talking points and sound bites. He may be afraid to be put on the spot and face the hard questions, said DeLemus.
Communication may be the key to gaining favor from this skeptical group of political activists.
“What he needs to do is convince us he is concerned about our opinions and open a dialogue with us,” he added. “We need to know his plans. The liberty groups in the country are not going to jump on the Romney train unless he earns their vote.”
Other Tea Party-affiliated activists disagree and say they have seen Romney reaching out to their ranks.
“Every time I have reached out to the Romney organization or campaign, they have responded,” said Corey Lewandowski, executive director of the Americans For Prosperity New Hampshire. “I have even had a one-on-one with Romney himself.”
So, it seems that Romney is reaching out to some Tea Party groups, but may be leaving others out.
Lewandowski added that Romney’s business background is good for the Tea Party movement, who believe in a free market and fiscal responsibility. He, like many Republicans, just want to see President Barack Obama out of office.
Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire chairwoman Carolyn McKinney said that she is in the same boat as other Tea Party activists in the state when she says her vote goes to “Anybody-But-Obama.”
“I think that President Obama just needs to be replaced, and if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, I think he is in the best position to replace Obama,” she said. “He’ll get my vote because he is better than Obama.”
She added that Tea Party voters are looking for a candidate to take a “bold stand” for the U.S. Constitution.
Granite State Patriots Liberty PAC chair Jack Kimball agrees the New Hampshire Tea Party, which he said is alive and well, needs to stand behind Romney. He said that he had always intended to back the Republican nominee because having Obama in office again would be “unacceptable.
“I know people who are hesitating,” said Kimball, “but at the end of the day, what are the alternatives?”
But Romney may not be able to rely on the “Anybody-But-Obama” vote.
Many Tea Partiers flock to libertarian-leaning Republican Ron Paul and his long-held beliefs of personal freedom and revamping our financial system. Many of these Tea Party/Paul supporters don’t see much of a difference between Romney and Obama; and that is a big problem for Romney.
Jane Aitken is the spokeswoman for the NH Tea Party Coalition, which is made up of 51 separate activist groups. A Ron Paul supporter, she said that Romney has been “forced” onto Republican voters by the GOP establishment. On top of that, both candidates are being controlled by special interests in everything from the economy to foreign policies.
“There is not going to be much change with Romney, so we might as well let Obama win,” said Aitken. “We can agree that Obama is terrible, but they will make excuses for Romney because he has an ‘R’ next to his name.”
She clarified that she does not want to see Republicans lose, but believes the same powerful forces are behind both candidates.
Aitken sees Romney’s business background as a weakness in appealing to Tea Party voters. A combination of his “crony capitalism” and acceptance of bailouts conflicts with their principles, she said.
She added that Romney has avoided many Tea Party groups when he visits New Hampshire.
This anti-Romney view is not shared among all of those who identify with the group, including Mike Malzone, founder of the Merrimack, NH Tea Party. Malzone said he completely supports Romney and believes that some Tea Party members should end their obsession with Ron Paul.
“Ron Paul gave up being a doctor to be a career politician,” he said. “He hasn’t done much over the past 30 years, and we cannot be pulling in a third candidate now.”
Jennifer Horn, founder of We the People: A First in the Nation Freedom Forum, has fully backed Romney and believes that many other Tea Party voters and activists are doing the same. His core message of economic growth and cutting the size of government falls right in line with their beliefs.
“He is clearly the one who is going to lead us back to the founding principles of country,” said Horn.
She said that New Hampshire’s Tea Party movement has no defined leadership, and is comprised of dozens of different groups and voters across the state. Many of the “leaders” in the state who feel that the Tea Party is not behind Romney do not represent the whole movement, she added.
Horn did have some sound advice for Romney, saying he should stay on message and keep his campaign promises.
Because, as recent election cycles have proven: Hell hath no fury like a political activist scorned.