Are Some 'Tea Party' Politicians Just Politicians After All?

In the latest Gallup poll taken the day before the last Republican debate on Thursday, Newt Gingrich was leading Mitt Romney by 20 points- 41% to 21%- among those who profess themselves to be “conservatives.” Gov. Romney, however, was leading the former Speaker by 10 points- 27% to 17%- among those who describe themselves as “liberal” or “moderate.”

Even Republican presidential candidate, and head of the congressional Tea Party caucus, Michele Bachmann, who invoked the name of George Will to accuse Mr. Gingrich, during Thursday night’s debate, of “tolerating infanticide,” once thought he was the greatest conservative since sliced bread. Does this count as a “flip-flop?”

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Now, Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S. Carolina) has given her much-coveted endorsement of Mitt Romney. This is, perhaps, not a shock since, despite her rise to power on the wings of Tea Party support, she and Mr. Romney have had a mutual admiration society “thing” happening since 2008, when Ms. Haley served as Gov. Romney’s state co-chair for his presidential bid that year. Mr. Romney then supported her in her gubernatorial bid in 2010, for which she reportedly received $900,000 worth of ads paid for by the Republican Governors’ Association. After former Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed her, Ms. Haley’s status as a rising star of the Republican party was solidified.

Gov. Haley’s endorsement is considered significant because, since 1980, South Carolina has successfully picked the Republican nominee for president. Now, Gov. Romney undoubtedly hopes her Tea Party “glow” will rub off on him, since it appears many conservatives of the Tea Party philosophy are still supportive of Speaker Gingrich and some of the other Republican candidates. In a pointed dismissal of Mr. Gingrich, Gov. Haley said of Mr. Romney, “He is not a creature of Washington, and he knows what it means to make decisions – real decisions – not simply cast a vote.”

There is some speculation that Gov. Haley is actively seeking a vice presidential nomination, and may view this endorsement as a move in that direction. Gov. Romney has also received the endorsement of other politicians, considered to be “conservative,” such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), who has earned a Heritage Action for America (HAFA) score of 79%, Rep. Connie Mack (R-Florida), with a HAFA score of 90%, and former Republican senatorial candidate, Christine O’Donnell. Gov. Romney has said that Sen. Ayotte is on his “list” of potential vice presidential running mates.

Many of these supporters of Mitt Romney appear to be justifying their endorsement of him by pointing to his success as a businessman, an understandable discernment. But, despite the fact that Gov. Romney has made it clear he no longer wishes to dwell on his Romneycare project in Massachusetts (see video below), it remains a concern that many of these “conservative” politicians appear to have bought into his notion that “Romneycare” was good for his state, but not the entire country. This is especially difficult to swallow when, first, we continue to see that most Republicans in Massachusetts do not agree with their former governor, and, second, Mr. Romney himself, during a 2008 debate in New Hampshire, said, “I like mandates. The mandate works.”

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If Mitt Romney is the nominee, he will get my vote, but I am certainly questioning many of these endorsements. All politicians are, after all, politicians, whether supported by the Tea Party, or not. We will be wise to “mind the gap” between our heads and our hearts as we move into the important year ahead of us.

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