Members of the tea party movement have long been suspicious of — and annoyed by — the Florida Tea Party, which they worry could divide the conservative vote and undermine Republican candidates.
Speaking Saturday at a tea party-sponsored get-out-the-vote rally in Orlando, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele alluded to the party’s alleged connections to Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson (a charge Grayson denies), drawing a predictably angry reaction from the crowd.
“All these fake tea parties need to step aside,” Steele said. “We’re not playing that game.”
Meanwhile, another tea party group has been handing out phone scripts with lists of registered Republicans. The message reads:
I’m a member of the true grasssroots tea party movement and I am calling to warn you about a dirty trick that Democrat operatives are playing on voters here in Florida. On your ballot you will see a candidate with the abbreviation “TEA” after their name. This is not a real member of the tea party movement, but is part of an imposter party created by Democrats.
A note on the scripts says they were “paid for on behalf of the Chris Dorworth campaign.” Republican state Rep. Dorworth is seeking reelection in a district north of Orlando.
On Saturday, The New York Times gave front-page treatment to the possibility of vote-splitting caused by third-party candidates running under the Tea Party banner, which appear to have sprouted up around the country.