Mitt Romney and the Tea Party: It’s Complicated

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Does Mitt Romney think tea partiers are nuts? It seems like a reasonable question to ask the potential presidential contender. While most of the other candidates hoping to run for the White House in 2012 have gone out of their way to prove their tea party bona fides, Romney has kept his distance, perhaps for good reason. Lots of tea partiers won’t forgive him for paving the way for the Obama health care reform plan with RomneyCare, as it’s dubbed, when he was governor of Massachusetts. But Romney’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday was extremely well-received by an audience that included a healthy number of self-declared tea partiers. Indeed, he offered a lot a tea partier could love: talk of job creation, American exceptionalism, and a plug for the Constitution. He also has business credentials to die for, his health care record not withstanding.

But at least one tea party activist who’s been in contact with Romney’s campaign says that he has been reluctant to take one important move that would solidify his standing with the grassroots conservative movement: signing its “Contract from America.”

Last year, Ryan Hecker from the Houston Tea Party Society helped create a crowdsourced agenda that tea partiers wanted to see enacted in Washington. It emphasized limited government, fiscal responsibility and individual liberty, and asked signers to pledge to support a balance budget, tax reform, repeal of ObamaCare, a ban on earmarks, and to oppose cap and trade, among other things. The earmark ban scared off a fair number of candidates and members of Congress. But as Hecker says, “There’s nothing in there that a guy who doesn’t write legislation couldn’t support.” One of the first signers was Newt Gingrich. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) was also an early endorser. But when Hecker, who appeared on a CPAC panel right before Romney took the stage, asked Romney to sign the contract, he “took a pass,” says Hecker, without explaining exactly why.

Hecker thinks Romney is an impressive candidate, who heroically turned around the Salt Lake Olympics, and is a “great businessman.” But Romney’s failure to sign the contract, says Hecker, hurts his standing with tea partiers, who are going to be critical to the 2012 election and who could potentially help Romney compensate for his problems with evangelicals who refuse to support his campaign. (They don’t like his Mormonism and still believe that he’s secretly pro-choice.) “I think it’s important that he sign the Contract with America,” Hecker says. “He needs to show that he’s listening to the tea party and that he’s going to be a leader who represents true conservatives.”

WE'LL BE BLUNT:

We need to start raising significantly more in donations from our online community of readers, especially from those who read Mother Jones regularly but have never decided to pitch in because you figured others always will. We also need long-time and new donors, everyone, to keep showing up for us.

In "It's Not a Crisis. This Is the New Normal," we explain, as matter-of-factly as we can, what exactly our finances look like, how brutal it is to sustain quality journalism right now, what makes Mother Jones different than most of the news out there, and why support from readers is the only thing that keeps us going. Despite the challenges, we're optimistic we can increase the share of online readers who decide to donate—starting with hitting an ambitious $300,000 goal in just three weeks to make sure we can finish our fiscal year break-even in the coming months.

Please learn more about how Mother Jones works and our 47-year history of doing nonprofit journalism that you don't find elsewhere—and help us do it with a donation if you can. We've already cut expenses and hitting our online goal is critical right now.

payment methods

WE'LL BE BLUNT

We need to start raising significantly more in donations from our online community of readers, especially from those who read Mother Jones regularly but have never decided to pitch in because you figured others always will. We also need long-time and new donors, everyone, to keep showing up for us.

In "It's Not a Crisis. This Is the New Normal," we explain, as matter-of-factly as we can, what exactly our finances look like, how brutal it is to sustain quality journalism right now, what makes Mother Jones different than most of the news out there, and why support from readers is the only thing that keeps us going. Despite the challenges, we're optimistic we can increase the share of online readers who decide to donate—starting with hitting an ambitious $300,000 goal in just three weeks to make sure we can finish our fiscal year break-even in the coming months.

Please learn more about how Mother Jones works and our 47-year history of doing nonprofit journalism that you don't elsewhere—and help us do it with a donation if you can. We've already cut expenses and hitting our online goal is critical right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate