Tea Party Leaders Endorse Gingrich: High Risk, Low Reward

By: Kenric Ward | Posted: January 28, 2012 3:55 AM
Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich at the Lakeside Inn in Mount Dora on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012.

In throwing their support to Newt Gingrich, a group of Florida tea party leaders risk throwing away their clout and credibility, observers of the movement say.

"The Florida Tea Party Coalition With Newt" endorsed the former House speaker on Thursday, saying they would "help defeat Massachusetts Moderate Mitt Romney and then President Barack Obama."

“It is clear to me and many others in the tea party movement that Newt is the Reagan conservative that America needs,” said Peter Lee, founder and director of the East Side Tea Party of Orlando.

Lee was joined by statewide tea leader Patricia Sullivan, who said, “I stand with Newt because I know he will stand up to the establishment and insist on fiscal reforms."

In all, more than 30 Florida-based tea activists signed on to the coalition. The geographically diverse representatives ranged from the Panhandle to Broward County.

Separately, the TEA Party of Florida, the only political tea party registered with the state Division of Elections, endorsed Gingrich.

Chairman John Long said Gingrich "articulated direct and serious steps designed to reduce spending, cut our deficits, pay down our national debt, and return liberty to our citizens in doing so."

But the endorsements may be too little and too late for the former House speaker, whose poll numbers in Florida have slumped amid two lackluster debate performances on Monday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, Gingrich continues to mystify and anger conservatives as he panders on illegal immigration and rationalizes his $1.6 million contract with Freddie Mac while adopting populist poses that resemble left-wing class warfare.

Still, some tea party leaders, fearing the growing inevitability of Romney as the GOP nominee, felt they had to take a stand before Tuesday's Florida primary. Romney is perceived as the "establishment candidate" and widely distrusted by tea party groups, who have received little or no attention from the former Massachusetts governor.

Billie Tucker, leader of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville, is not endorsing any candidates, but acknowledges Gingrich has strong appeal in the movement.

Gingrich won 43 percent of the 322 votes cast in a First Coast straw poll on Jan. 17. Ron Paul received 26 percent, Romney garnered 19 percent and Rick Santorum netted 10 percent.

Gingrich's ties to the tea party movement are deep and long-lasting.

In March 2009, when tea parties were just beginning to be organized, the Georgian pledged to use his prodigious mailing list at American Solutions to publicize the inaugural Tax Day event.

He posted a link on every website he owned, sent emails to everyone in his database and produced a video while publicly announcing his support of the tea party movement -- long before radio talkers like Glenn Beck jumped on the bandwagon.

Sullivan, who chairs a statewide tea group called the Tea Party Network, is repaying the favor by mobilizing her Lake County-based "Patriot Army" on Gingrich's behalf.

"Once I decided to support Newt, I got to work and took a group of Patriot Army members to South Carolina where we walked precincts for three days, then waved signs at the polls," Sullivan said.

Then she returned to Florida, where she set up a Gingrich rally at Mount Dora.

"Time for talk is over, we need to be about action. That is why I actively support the candidate I believe will stand up to the establishment and rein in spending," she said.

Explaining the mechanics of the coalition endorsement, Sullivan said, "The leaders and members will share their views with their tea party and actively work to get out the vote for Newt."

"I don't believe another candidate has a coalition of tea party leaders willing to get out and work for their candidate, but I could be wrong."  

Sullivan, who previously supported Herman Cain, said the Tea Party Network is not involved in the endorsement.

Some say the tea endorsement is a risky move, coming after other tea party favorites -- Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry -- each exited the race amid controversy or anemic polls.

"If Gingrich loses, the tea party is over," predicted one veteran tea party activist from South Florida. "If he loses, what does that show you about the clout of the tea party?"

The activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cast his early ballot for Ron Paul this week. "He stands for what we stood for in 2009."

A former executive with the Florida TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party doubts that the coalition backing will help Gingrich much.

"Far more influential was the endorsement of the reconstituted TEA Party of Florida. That tea party has a much-desired email list of over 100,000 opt-in participants. And, unlike the self-pronounced 'tea party coalition,' it has a track record of actually receiving votes for candidates," said Doug Guetzloe, an Orlando-based political consultant who has returned to the Republican Party.
"The 'coalition tea party' backing is one of the last acts of an inflated collection of egos," Guetzloe said. "Their endorsement will make no difference."

Some tea activists steered clear of endorsing out of concern that they might run afoul of election laws or tax codes. Others simply  disagree with Gingrich politically.

Gingrich's infamous couch talk with Nancy Pelosi about "global warming" and his dismissal of Rep. Paul Ryan's entitlement reforms as "right-wing social engineering" fly in the face of conservative orthodoxy.

Illustrating the fractious character of the tea movement, Steve Vernon, vice president of Tea Party Manatee, signed on to the Gingrich coalition, even though Rick Santorum won a straw poll conducted by his group before the South Carolina primary.

Vernon said he and others in his Gulf Coast tea party consider Santorum a "bigger government guy" who repeatedly voted for earmarks as a two-term Pennsylvania senator.

"Some say he can't win," Vernon added.

"We could have a totally different outcome this week. It's still up in the air," Vernon said, emphasizing that the Gingrich tea coalition is made up of individuals, and not binding on groups.

Several large tea organizations remain unaligned. In addition to Tucker's First Coast Tea Party, sizable tea and patriot organizations in Naples, Englewood and Venice are absent from the coalition. The combined membership of these groups is estimated at 15,000.

Still, Tucker does not dispute or begrudge the coalition's action.

"They have chosen to stand up for their guy and that is their decision," she said.

Danita Kilcullen is less sanguine about the process. The chairwoman of Tea Party Fort Lauderdale said she is "appalled" at the endorsements for Gingrich.

"The tea party, of all people, should be aware of his globalist, progressive agenda. He would be my absolute last pick."

Beyond that, Kilcullen said endorsements can create unnecessary "splits and hard feelings" within tea parties.

"Our group overwhelmingly supports Santorum, but it's not right to endorse," she said.

Tea Party Express, a national organization, is holding off on a presidential endorsement, but that could change before Tuesday.

"The movement is coalescing around Gingrich," Amy Kremer, president of Tea Party Express, told Sunshine State News. She said former Rep. J.C. Watts would be standing in for Gingrich at the group's rally in Jacksonville on Saturday.

Kevin Wagner, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University, said Gingrich is a good fit on at least one level.

"Mitt Romney has never been popular with tea party groups, so it is fairly predictable that they would move toward the most viable non-Romney," Wagner noted.

"With that said, Newt Gingrich has a confrontational style that taps into the anger that many tea party members have. He is a natural candidate on an emotional level, if not a policy one, for the tea party supporters."

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (165)

4:01PM JAN 28TH 2012
No, I am not saying that. Sorry, my quote of Jesus was from memory, but He didn't actually say "heaven," he said the "kingdom of God," i.e., "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." So maybe the Mormons make some sort of distinction. I don't know. I have heard that Mormons believe that almost everyone goes to heaven, and they have different levels, the highest being the "Celestial Kingdom."
3:18PM JAN 28TH 2012
I cannot understand why ANY TEA type wants Newt. His long association with the CFR, Tri-lateral Commission, Bilderbergers and his jaunts at the Bohemian Grove should make them all run away big time. It just doesn't make sense.
Add that to the fact that he failed to make the ballot in several states, totalling 564 delegates (nearly HALF of what he needs to win the nomination), and some states, like Virginia, don't allow write-ins.
The guy is NOT a conservative. He trades in wives as soon as there old enough... It just, plain, makes no sense to me.
3:29PM JAN 28TH 2012
He will not win the nomination because he will not get enough delegates since he didn't qualify. So a vote for Newt is a wasted vote. But, most people do not pay any attention to the important stuff. All they do is vote in rhetoric instead of checking out their voting record and what's really important. For the life of me, I cant understand how anyone would want to sleep with Newt. One would be a rarity but three? It just goes to show what desperation and confusion does to people. They have all gone bonkers.
3:13PM JAN 28TH 2012
Romney care! Newt governed as a conservative Mitt was and still is a lib. pro abortion fought against the second ammendment raised 400 million in "fees" while he governed etc. Saw miss Pam B. on Greta last night. She looked like a fool trying to defend Romney care against Rush. Greta had to call her out on her assertions. Every true conservative has smacked down the establishment and Romney for their web of lies about the Reagan years including Ed Rollins who was reagan's close confidant. Look at the add Newt is using that Mike Huckabee cut in 2008, He talks about what a dishonest man Mitt is. He says it is out of context but it is completely in context.
Bernadine Johnson
3:01PM JAN 28TH 2012
Just what does the tea Party want. they are not conservitive. Do they
really want this country back to constitution LAW UNDER GOD? Seams to me they are pro progressive can not really back a conservitive who could start us back on the right track. I changed from Democrate years ago to republican as i am a conservitive. But from what I see this year. I donot want to be clasified with any of these partys. their sould only be to partys.to choose from and held accountable. we donot need green,communest,GOD ANLY KNOWS what other Party some one might think up God Bless
2:58PM JAN 28TH 2012
Newt does not sound like a fiscal conservative... he calls Paul Ryan's Medicare Plan "right-wing social engineering..." Tea Party groups that endorsed Newt should have known better.
2:47PM JAN 28TH 2012
Just saw an article at Gawker that Mitt Romney had his dead father in law baptized into Mormonism after his death. His family had apparently tried and succeeded in converting Anne's whole family but her father refused.After he died he was converted in a private family meeting at the tabernacle. Washington post has an article titled Under God Mormons and Jews contend for souls of the dead that features Holocaust victims at a press conference asking the mormons to stop baptizing Jew into the church after their deaths. The uproar caused the LDS to promise to stop but they survivors say the are still doing this practice. Also at Catholic online there is an article entitled Vatican warns of Mormom baptism of the dead. The vatican even ordered the parishes not to give information to the Mormon Genealogical society. Do you think this will become an issue in the general ? I do
3:08PM JAN 28TH 2012
You don't seem to understand what Mormons are doing when they perform baptisms for the dead, which are mentioned in the Bible, in the New Testament. Mormons believe that the gospel is preached in the afterlife as well as on earth. Now Jesus said, "except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." And since Mormons believe that baptism is an earthly ordinance, they perform proxy baptisms for the dead so that people who never heard of the LDS church can convert to it in the afterlife, to be born again of water and the spirit. Performing this Baptism doesn't "convert" anyone to the LDS church in the afterlife. It simply allows someone to become a member of the church in the afterlife if he or she so chooses. The baptism doesn't mean anything if the person in the spirit world doesn't want to use it. It's like a free coupon in the mail. You don't have to use it; and if you don't use it, it's worthless and doesn't do anything.
3:05PM JAN 28TH 2012
Never heard of Gawker so I googled it - "Gawker — Today's gossip is tomorrow's news. gawker.com/1 day ago – Gawker is the definitive news and gossip sheet for followers of entertainment, media, and business."

Gossip is no news. Suggest you stick with just Sunshine State News.
2:33PM JAN 28TH 2012
Am I suppose to think that a Washington insider adheres to the principles for which the Tea Party stands, but not a self-made successful business man?
Don't Tread On Me!
2:48PM JAN 28TH 2012
That's a good one. This is a guy who has built a $100 million business in Washington since he resigned in defeat as Speaker in the 1990s. That is really shoveling in the gravy. But somehow, he's not part of the Washington establishment? Why have so many Tea Party candidates from the 2010 elections endorsed Mitt Romney? Because he tried to help get them elected with endorsements and money and volunteers. But what did Gingrich do for them?
2:16PM JAN 28TH 2012
Mr. Ward, Your talents are wasted on a site like Sunshine State News! You are a great writer. Hopefully others will be in touch soon for your talent.
Jim B.
2:47PM JAN 28TH 2012
Don't say that. He is the only thinking writer SNN has. The rest just write what they are fed.
2012 elections
6:35PM JAN 28TH 2012
So true Jim B. Which is why he should leave, their other "journalists" can't hold a candle to his writing, insight and connections. Mr. Ward deserves better.
1:57PM JAN 28TH 2012
Can't find one reason for any tea party group to endorse Newt. High risk, probable extinction. They are too factions calling themselves "tea party" at this point, and backing Newt would be the end of them.
1:52PM JAN 28TH 2012
More proof the Florida Tea Party has been co-opted by the establishment Neocons.

To believe that an establishment insider like Newt Gingrich espouses the true principles of the tea party, smaller government and lower taxes is proof their endorsement is insignificant, you are an embarrassment to conservative principals.

What Republican­s don't get is that Gingrich is just a louder, more repugnant and even more hypocritic­al, self serving, flip flopping version of Romney. He is a cross between Khrushchev and Oscar the grouch from Sesame St. Hard to imagine that this guy is the intellectu­al elite of conservati­ves.

I'll vote for liberty, sound money, a constitutional government, no more policing the world, abolish the IRS, Federal Reserve, Patriot Act, NDAA, Sopa, Pipa, and give my future family a better country.

Ron Paul the real Tea Party conservative in 2012.
1:33PM JAN 28TH 2012
Newt's outsized ego has been well on display, "Let's face it, I will be the nominee." When he suggested that Romney give back, "the millions he had made from firing workers," likely Obama clapped his hands in glee. It's always nice to have another Republican intellectual join the Democrats in their class-warfare campaign against the rich.
1:17PM JAN 28TH 2012
Thank you Mr. Ward for such a well written article. Refreshing to read after most of the cut and paste stuff other "journalist" put out from the governors office. You hit the nail on the head with this one!
1:07PM JAN 28TH 2012
Fox News reported a recent study that the person by far getting the most negative coverage in the mainstream media is Mitt Romney. Even on Fox News itself, the negative coverage far outweighs the positive, something like 60% negative. But when Romney gets the nomination, the negativity from the right will largely cease, as people rally around him to defeat Obama, and he'll rise substantially in the polls against the current president. The "GOP establishment" doesn't vote, and can't elect Romney. Only voters, vote. If Romney wins, it will be because the voters preferred him. Romney gave plenty of Tea Party endorsements during the last election, but Newt Gingrich opposed tea party candidates during those cycles. Who is the conservative?
2:00PM JAN 28TH 2012
Neither... What Republican­s don't get is that Gingrich is just a louder, more repugnant and even more hypocritic­al, self serving, flip flopping version of Romney. He is a cross between Khrushchev and Oscar from Sesame St. Hard to imagine that this guy is the intellectu­al elite of conservati­ves.

Ron Paul is the only Conservative in the Republican cabal.
2:39PM JAN 28TH 2012
Choosing among the candidates who can win the nomination, the people will decide who is the conservative, who is the most electable, who has the best character, who is potentially the best administrator, who will attract the best and the brightest to work in the administration, who will stand up to the world-wide war against the West, etc.
7:30PM JAN 28TH 2012
Our original patriots said "Give me liberty or give me death" I say "Give me a moral and good president. Who's highest value is the constitution or give me none"! No In between, no compromise. If the presidential nominee does not support my values he does not get my vote. Every patriot on earth should agree with that reasoning. If you do not, you are committing mental fraud, and reasoning of things you don't support like abortion! Never again will I vote any other way, EVER! Since Ron Paul represents my ideals, I would be a sell out not to cast my vote for the man. People who vote just to get somebody out of office need to examine seriously the ramifications of voting that way. Maybe they will oust the bad guy. To often though you get something even worse, because instead of voting for the man who you agree with. You vote for the one you think can win. If you oust a tyrant you better be DAMN sure you have something better to replace him with otherwise you end up with Egypt,Iran,Libya, the list goes on and on. You may be right that "Any republican candidate will be better than Obama". You know what, Cat crap might taste better than dog crap too! I choose to eat neither and go with the steak!

Ron Paul 2012
3:34PM JAN 28TH 2012
What you obviously do not get is that you do not decided anything. Everything is being decided for you. Wake up. The neocons are playing switch and bait. they are merely replacing one socialists with another. You will get more of the same and probably will not even notice it because he is a Republican. How dumb can folks get. Stop drinking the kool aid.
12:59PM JAN 28TH 2012
Shouldn't Newt establish his own base on Uranus? It seems like a better fit, from a strictly planetary perspective.
Jim B.
2:46PM JAN 28TH 2012
SNN needs a "Like" button!
12:52PM JAN 28TH 2012
Newt? The king of "Dating while Married"? If he's willing to screw over two sick wives, imagine what he has in mind for us! Let's put Newt on the moon, alone.
1:21PM JAN 28TH 2012
Well said.
Al Hook
12:50PM JAN 28TH 2012
The main problem with Ging is the alternatives are all as bad or worse.
1:07PM JAN 28TH 2012
Wrong. On so many levels. God help the GOP is he is the nominee.
12:29PM JAN 28TH 2012
Character counts. When one of Romney's friends lost contact with his daughter in New York, Romeny SHUT HIS BUSINESS DOWN, and he and all his employees went to New York City to look for her. Luckily, she was OK. But few businessmen would shut their business down to help a friend. What a great guy is Romney. I remember during the debates when Rick Perry was viciously attacking him. But when Perry got into trouble because he couldn't remember what government department he would close, Romney was the only other candidate trying to help him remember which one it was. That's class.
1:41PM JAN 28TH 2012
Sorry Gosseyn that was Ron Paul that helped Rick Perry, Mitten's just stood there like the buffoon that he is without a word. That's an establishment clown.
2:04PM JAN 28TH 2012
Watch it on you tube. You are wrong. When Perry was trying to remember the third department he would close, Romney suggested "The EPA?". Paul held up five fingers and said sarcastically, "Five, five." That's hardly trying to help him remember. The department that Perry couldn't remember was the department of energy.
1:17PM JAN 28TH 2012
I don't believe you were watching the correct debate. It was Ron Paul who helped Perry remember which government department he claimed he would close, because Dr. Paul is the only one who knows which ones need to be closed.
1:42PM JAN 28TH 2012
You are wrong. I saw the debate. What Perry needed was the name of a department he wanted to close. Romney didn't know which one it was, but he suggested one as a possibility to help him. Paul didn't make any specific suggestion to him, and was of no help to him at the time at all, even potentially, unlike Romney who at least tried.
2:13PM JAN 28TH 2012
BS He stood there for seconds that must have felt like hours with a deer-in-the-headlights look on his face.

“What’s the third one there?” he asked himself.

Only one of his competitors tried to help him out. Fellow Texan Ron Paul suggested it was the Environmental Protection Agency.

Yes, Perry quickly responded, before reversing himself. He then stumbled and repeated himself several times before giving up.

“I can’t. The third one, I can’t (name). Oops!”
12:54PM JAN 28TH 2012
You hit the nail on the head Gosseyn. Character does count, and Newt is a liar and a cheat. Enough said about that sad sack.
gene lacross
12:19PM JAN 28TH 2012
it's looking more like the long knives are coming out againts newt,i see the rinos coming after him, and when i see Mc cain endorse some one i wake up and go against him he is a demorat, gene
Terry Dempsey
12:13PM JAN 28TH 2012
I'm ready.
I've had it with the GOP tactics. I voted for H.W. Bush, I voted for Dole, I voted for W., I voted for McCain. George Bush pursued the war I thought was vital but other than that he dropped the ball. No more. I'm done. I will not vote for Romney. I know...'you want more Obama?'
Well, no.......but I equally don't want a moderate, progressive ex-Governor keeping the seat warm until the next dimocrat can pick up where Obama left off. Yes.....it's Newt or nothing. TD
12:55PM JAN 28TH 2012
You stunod. NEWT IS NOTHING!
12:07PM JAN 28TH 2012
Ironically, it was Romney who supported the Tea Party candidates in the 2010 elections with hard work, money, and endorsements. Gingrich was nowhere to be found.
12:57PM JAN 28TH 2012
He was hiding out in some woman's bedroom, or collecting checks for his advice...not as a lobbyist, but "historian". He's not even capable of being a legend in his own mind, since he clearly lost it years ago.
Andrew Nappi
11:58AM JAN 28TH 2012
This is a fascinating read! Were not many of these groups carrying signs that read End The Fed and Restore the Constitution? They talked of limited government and lower taxes. Yet, they are coalescing around a man whose record, forget his rhetoric, look at his record, is a glossary of big government at the expense of individual liberty. There is only one candidate that holds the positions they claimed in 2009 to have held, and they can't stand that man.
These people were tired of "insiders" and yet they choose the ultimate insider, Newt Gingrich.
This classic cognitive dissonance affliction will lead them to a level of irrelevance to go along with their rapidly expanding credibility gap.
Nothing permanent or good can ever come from forgetting that LIBERTY, not a party agenda, is job one.
1:12PM JAN 28TH 2012
The corporate-political system has usurped the TEA Party. And no wonder, considering the power they exhibited in the 2010 elections.

Just imagine if that kind of power were put toward electing the president. The only candidate who embodies the TEA Party values, the father of the movement, would win. Ron Paul.
Bud Ennis
11:49AM JAN 28TH 2012
From what I see it is a little late to chose sides by the leaders as the followers are already way ahead. In Polk County it is about 55% Newt and 45% Rominy. At this stage that is not going to change. The people that do not publicly claim to be a Tea Partier are 55% Rominy and 45% Newt. Let us hope that come November we all are 110% behind whoever is our eventual nominee. Bud Ennis Winter Haven FL
Jon Gethier
12:30PM JAN 28TH 2012
it really matters not what pitiful canditates your party chooses, they are all sad little men. Your party has ensured that President Obama will be re-elected in 2012.
5:31PM JAN 28TH 2012
BOY!! Talk sad little men. Look at the comunity organizer.
Martial Artist
11:42AM JAN 28TH 2012
I am sorry to see that the comments by Ms. Sullivan and Mr. Lee suggest that they are both well described by the adage, "it isn't what they don't know that is so appalling, it is what they know that isn't so!" If they think either Mr. Romney or Mr. Gingrich is (1) a Reagan conservative, or (2) will" insist on meaningful fiscal reforms" or "stand up to the establishment" (of which they are both integral parts), they are sadly mistaken and are poorly serving the people of this nation and their own state.

Keith Töpfer
Rudy Gonzales
11:40AM JAN 28TH 2012
The Terrifying Errant Activist(TEA) party have corrupted the GOP-Republican party with their confrontational caustic tongues. More than confrontational, they espouse little or no government along the lines of Ron Paul. The Tragic Errant Anarchist believe "Government cannot create wealth, and an overtaxed and over-regulated private sector can’t, either." Without Government we would go back in time to pre-civil war times. The Tea Party believes that a nation that won't control is borders has surrendered its sovereignty, Yet they become more bigoted and prejudiced towards immigrants from anywhere. The Tea Party believes we should rip out our complex, corrupt, and unpredictable tax code root and branch throwing every Tax lawyer, accountant and their support staff out of work. The Tea Party beleives we should develop and use our nation's fossil fuel resources even at the cost of polluting our air, waterways and general health. The Tea Party believes that government should be strictly limited by a written contract with the governed, yet they interpret the constitution for their own issues. If the fringe element runs locally and the state level government­s, they have greater control of lives and the issues directly effecting everyone in their city, county, parish or state as well as nationally­. If you don't like how the party of "NO" has held the Congress hostage, vote. If you are not registered - get registered­. If you didn't vote last cycle, get involved and vote. Take part in local and state level politics, because the Toxic Erratic Activist(T­EA) Party has taken over local and state politics.
5:22PM JAN 28TH 2012
Settle down and have a little Tea. You are speaking like the loyalist did for King George and remember our slogan "We have not yet begun to fight". Sarah Palin is for Newt and so am I and of course that means every Senior and every Cuban and every True American will vote for Newt.
12:36PM JAN 28TH 2012
I can only hope that the TEA Party does indeed take over! Now as for Erratic speeches--I think you just gave one! Happy Newt Year!

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