The tea party has been organizing rallies, including a large one this weekend in Orlando, which have mainly focused on the upcoming election.
But what will become of the sprawling, decentralized groups after Nov. 2?
At least one federation of tea party groups plans to use its infrastructure to ensure that Republican candidates make the tax and spending cuts sought by tea party activists, while also challenging Democratic legislation, according to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal:
According to an internal memorandum reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella group that says it works with nearly 3,000 local groups around the U.S., is planning a multipronged campaign that includes advertising, polling, hundreds of rallies, and a summit of newly elected members of Congress early in 2011.
The meeting of newly elected officials, the date of which hasn’t been set, is designed to keep new representatives connected to “what we expect from them,” according to the memo. Incumbent Republican members of Congress and the party’s national leadership won’t be invited, said Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, in an interview.
“The incumbents have allowed us to get into the problems we are in now,” he said. “We hope to get to the freshmen before the incumbents get to them, and start twisting their arms.”
Speaking at a rally in Orlando on Saturday, Grover Norquist of the conservative group Americans for Tax reform said tea party groups should serve as the “exoskeleton” that protects newly elected Republicans against the pressures bound to be imposed on newly elected officials by “the spending interests.”
In other words, he envisions a sustained grassroots mobilization that will both enforce the ideals that inspire tea party activists among newly elected Republicans and provide them with a source of political cover.
Whether and how that actually takes shape, and what relationship the tea party develops with the broader Republican Party as a whole, remains to be seen. A second Journal article, which contemplates the future presidential prospects of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, illustrates the divide:
According to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, one third of Republicans say they don’t back the tea party. Among this group, a slight plurality says Mr. Romney is the GOP’s “most important leader.”
One third of Republicans support the tea party so strongly that they describe themselves as part of the movement more than they identify as Republicans. Among this group, Mr. Gingrich is considered the GOP’s “most important leader”—ahead of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has tied herself closely to tea-party candidates this year.
The final third supports the tea party but identifies more as Republicans. Ms. Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are cited as top leaders most often among this group.