Politics

Rand Paul and Other Tea Party Senators Skeptical of Mitt Romney

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Romney's views on the Tea Party have been consistent all along: He really wants to be president. (Joke appropriated from Peter Suderman.)

Over at Yahoo News, Chris Moody asks three Tea Party-aligned senators what they think about Mitt Romney's TP cred. Sample:

"That's not a simple question," Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a founding member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, told me Thursday night as he rushed to a meeting in the Capitol building. He said he didn't have time to give a complete answer, so I caught up with him again outside the Senate chamber an hour later, where he obliged.

"What the tea party stands for, and what unites everybody in the tea party I think, is their concern about the debt, and the concern that we're borrowing so much and printing so much to pay for our debt," Paul said. "And as much as any politician comes toward that, I think they will be embraced. I don't think there's a clear-cut person out there other than Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin–people that are at the forefront of the tea party. But I don't have anything negative to say about Romney." […]

He doesn't always endorse presidential candidates, but when he does….

"The principles of the tea party are incredibly simple," Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, another founding member of the caucus, told me. "It's all about the fact that the federal government is too big and too expensive, and anyone who supports that proposition can barely align themselves in one way or another with the tea party."  But when I asked if Romney passed that test, there was nothing simple about it. Lee paused, sighed, and said that he didn't have time to offer a complete answer to the question. (He was running into a Senate vote and the deadline was fast approaching.) But Lee took a stab at it anyway: "He understands free markets. He understands how to generate revenue. He understands the limitations of government."

"And anyway, I wish him well," he added abruptly before disappearing behind the doors of the Senate chamber.

When I asked Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, also a freshman senator who  won election on widespread support from the tea party,  he said he was reserving judgment.

"We'll see based on how he conducts himself on the campaign," Johnson said. "What his ideas are. So, I'm not going to rule people out of the movement. Obviously I'm looking for a candidate on the Republican side who is fiscally conservative, who understands that we're bankrupting this nation, who loves this country, realizes that it's way too precious to bankrupt. And who's dedicated to preventing that."

Link via Moody's Twitter feed.