The Tea Party has a message for a former favorite, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn: It's time to quit the presidential race.
It's time for Michele Bachmann to go, wrote Ned Ryun, president of American Majority, in a statement echoed by the majority of the Tea Party organization. American Majority is one of the largest groups associated with the Tea Party movement; it operates in seven states, helping to train and organize some thousands of Republican and Libertarian supporters.
Ryun's statement, the full text of which is reprinted below, represents a first for the Tea Party: turning on a candidate it has supported, and one who has so frequently portrayed herself as the face and voice of the grassroots movement.
Bachmann campaign manager Keith Nahigian responded in a statement of his own. The strength of the Tea Party is all individuals' opinions are valued but no single leader speaks for it, he told CNN. Michele Bachmann enjoys strong support from Americans across party lines, and that certainly includes the Tea Party.
She will continue to be a strong advocate for the values and principles reflected by the Tea Party... as she seeks to win the Republican nomination, Nahigian concluded.
American Majority has been careful to stress that this does not mean it is prepared to endorse another candidate. Nor does it mean the group denies Bachmann's general status as a Tea Party candidate, though Ryun expressed his wariness at Bachmann's focus on social issues, areas the Tea Party is less committed to than issues like fiscal responsibility and limited government.
Anyone who knows the congresswoman, and knows her record, American Majority Executive Director Matt Robbins said, can see she is a national figure standing up for the Tea Party types.
Regardless, Robbins insists Bachmann's campaign never had a serious shot at winning the presidency, and the GOP hopeful's strategy revealed that.
It think it's pretty obvious that Michele Bachmann is about Michele Bachmann, Robbins said. Let's face it: she's a backbencher and has been a backbencher congresswoman for years. This is not a serious presidential campaign.
Other Tea Party groups have stayed loyal to Bachmann. Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, America's largest Tea Party group, believes Bachmann is champion of core values like fiscal responsibility and limited government. Levi Russel, director of public affairs at Americans for Prosperity, also remains supportive of Bachmann, while declining to officially endorse any of the GOP candidates.
Below, the full text of Ned Ryun's statement on Michele Bachmann:
Bachmann's Floundering Can Damage Tea Party
By American Majority President Ned Ryun
It's time for Michele Bachmann to go. For the last two years, I've been cautioning about the dangers of individuals or organizations trying to present themselves as leaders of the Tea Party movement. An individual personality or organization purporting to be a leader of what is truly a grassroots movement can hurt the Tea Party brand by creating false impressions about its core beliefs. Bachmann, the leader of the so-called Tea Party caucus in the House and the most vocal about her affiliation with the Tea Party than any other presidential candidate, has consistently presented herself as a champion of the movement and its values. Bachmann has ridden her Tea Party credentials from obscurity to a national platform like no other.
Since her meteoric rise this summer and win in the Iowa straw poll, her campaign has been plagued by losses of top staff, lackluster fundraising and a seeming lack of direction. Bachmann's resulting plunge in the polls is troubling for the Tea Party, not because one of their own is losing her footing, but because the longer Bachmann stays in the race, the more likely we will see her shift to the right. This rightward shift will come as the campaign works to hold on to its more conservative base of support in advance of the release of Bachmann's new book next month.
There is nothing wrong with addressing your base during a campaign. However, I suspect that we will hear more from her about social issues and religion to accomplish that goal. As an evangelical who is deeply pro-life, I can say that while many inside the Tea Party movement are socially conservative, social issues are not what drive the Tea Party. The Tea Party as a whole was founded on the principle that the American people are being enslaved by their government's unquenchable appetite for spending, debt and the taxation that limits our freedom, and that the future of this great nation has been endangered by our leaders' reckless behavior. The message of limited government, fiscal responsibility and accountability from our elected officials has broad appeal and is responsible for the massive political shifts we have seen in this country since mid-2009. It is the reason Barack Obama is in a fight for his political life. Those fiscal issues which attract Republicans, independents, and conservative Democrats alike must continue to be the focus of the majority of America's grassroots, led with courage by the Tea Party.
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.