The head of the Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund, a Super PAC linked to the influential Tea Party Patriots non-profit group that serves as a guiding light to tea party voters, pledged Thursday her group's support to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The endorsement from Jenny Beth Martin suggests far-right tea party voters are finally starting to fall in line behind the GOP nominee.
"Hillary Clinton stands opposed to everything the tea party stands for, on the policy, political, and personal fronts," Martin said in a statement. "Donald Trump, on the other hand, has pledged to fight to uphold our core values. In making a choice between the two of them, there is really no choice at all — we choose Trump."
The tea party movement emerged during the first year of President Barack Obama's term to protest the Obama administration's response to the 2008 financial crisis, which included bailouts for major banks and the auto industry, as well as financial aid for homeowners who had filed for bankruptcy or faced foreclosure. Martin's Tea Party Patriots, which are separate from the larger tea party movement, was founded in 2009.
The tea party's two chief priorities are reducing the national debt by eliminating government spending and reducing taxes. The movement's supporters have also been critical of Washington's efforts to reform immigration laws.
While some pundits have credited the same strain of "alt-right" nationalist politics that birthed the tea party for the rise of Trump, many in the tea party movement intially seemed skeptical of the GOP nominee.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has praised Planned Parenthood, a government funded operation, spoken about the importance of the federal government playing a role in healthcare, discussed his willingness to make deals with politicians on both sides of the aisle and displayed a flexibility on economic policy. That means that for some tea party supporters, who tend to back elected leaders who vow not to compromise conservative economic principles — some would argue to the point of obstruction — Trump was once largely viewed as a risk.
"The thing about the Trump movement is it’s about Trump," Martin told The Wall Street Journal in May. "We’re about principles."
But that was during the primaries, when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite, was still a factor in the race. According to a CNN/ORC Poll in January, in the heat of the primary season, tea party voters were still split between Trump and Cruz with 37 percent in favor of Trump and 34 percent siding with Cruz.
With less than 50 days to go before the election and only one conservative on the ballot, tea party voters seem to be falling in line, more in response to a fear of Hillary Clinton then an embrace of Trump.
"The simple fact is this: With a Republican House and a Republican Senate and Donald Trump in the White House, tea party members and supporters will be far more likely to see our preferred policy choices enacted into law," said Martin.