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)

Fareed Ansari
11:13AM JAN 28TH 2012
Neither has anything to loose, and nothing to gain, they have proven to be poor public servants. Newt is the original government shutdown queen, the Pee Party of "NO" have nothing to offer.
10:57AM JAN 28TH 2012
Meant to say "we do NOT have a leader"
10:55AM JAN 28TH 2012
The Republican Party does not represent nor uphold the belief's of the "real" Tea Party. The "real" Tea Party is not an organized group of people who are led by the nose by some self-appointed leader. We do have a leader. We think and act based on the same conservative values. Anyone who says they represent the Tea Party is a fake. We pay no dues. We elect no leaders. We are free to vote as we choose. No one is our spokesperson. We are 50 million plus in number. You will hear from us at the voting booth if we chose to show up.
Jon Gethier
12:33PM JAN 28TH 2012
your admission that the "tea party" is a figament of your imagination is very true. Your numbers quoted tho, are not. Be prepared for four more years!
10:55AM JAN 28TH 2012
The tea party will get what they deserve with Newt. He will need to cut Social Security and eliminate Medicare to pay for his Moonbeam Dream Base. Although this might encourage folks to diet and exercise more and be building investment saving. Good job Newt. Good job tea party.
10:44AM JAN 28TH 2012
Newt will win the Tea Party, Senior Citizens and all Cuban Americans vote because he stands for what is best for Americans. Tea Party voters know that as a Historian Newt remembers our founding fathers. Seniors know that Newt will protect Social Security and Medicare and will not socialize our current retirement benefits which we had been paying for since that first day we began our first paper route on our bicycles and paid our Taxes. Cubans remember when Castro stole their country with his program of change in 1959. Vote Newt and defeat Obama in 2012. Our new motto should be "God, Family and Country!"
12:54PM JAN 28TH 2012
Remembering our founding fathers and living by their principles are two very different things. Can you provide any evidence that Mr. Gingrich has adopted those principles, which are in the Constitution that our founding fathers wrote?
12:06PM JAN 28TH 2012
Medicare and Social security is socialism. Good to see the Tea Party defending socialism I guess.
12:05PM JAN 28TH 2012
Medicare and Social security is socialism. Good to see the Tea Party defending socialism I guess.
think aboutit
11:46AM JAN 28TH 2012
He will "not socialize SS and medicare"?

Those are the very definition of socialized programs, you ignorant bible thumping dolt!
1:25PM JAN 28TH 2012
Love your response. Ignorant bible thumping dolt is an excellent summation!
12:39PM JAN 28TH 2012
think about it who the hell are you to call any one stuipid? yours is just one opinion.
12:39PM JAN 28TH 2012
think about it who the hell are you to call any one stuipid? yours is just one opinion.
Emmett Randall
11:08AM JAN 28TH 2012
Sure....Calista can organize a nice tea for the women. I'd sure put my trust in the guy. He's led a life we should all copy and, after all.... he's going to make the moon our 51st state.
11:05AM JAN 28TH 2012
As a 68 year old senior who served on Ronald Reagans Task Force I can assure you that I will NEVER vote for Newt Gingrich. He is the typical fat cat elite good ole boy big government kind of guy who will take America to depths of depression and despair never before seen by this generation.
10:39AM JAN 28TH 2012
Why isn't anyone reporting the fact that neither Santorum or Gingrich can win the delegate count needed for the nomination?
Newt isn't on the ballot in Virginia,Missouri,or Ohio!
Santorum isn't on the ballot in Virginia or Illinois.
They would have to get at least 60% of the vote from here on out!Only Romney and Paul are on the ballot in ALL 50 states!
Conservative Voice
10:51AM JAN 28TH 2012
I pointed it out a few posts ago.

The candidate will need 1,144 delegates to secure the nominee. Newt already has missed the opportunity to run in enough states that amount to 564. I see no way that Newt can win the nomination outright. While it may be mathematically possible it is not realistic.

This is why the Tea Party stands to lose the influence they have gained.

Second place in Florida truly means first place loser as it is a winner take all state.
12:23PM JAN 28TH 2012
That's a fib. Newt has not missed out on 564 delegates. He missed Virginia. And Missouri has -0- delegates. Stop fibbing. It's desperate.
2:26PM JAN 28TH 2012
Not true Missouri has 53 delegates. Who is fibbing?
Jon Gethier
12:37PM JAN 28TH 2012
look at you two, both in the same party, both trying to rip each others throats open.... Oh how I laugh....
Tim G.
10:39AM JAN 28TH 2012
Newt had no ground game. His campaign staff is just running a seat of your pants, reactionary campaign right now. My guess is that would be exactly how he would govern if elected.

When he is at Winter Park today ask him who would be his Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Education, Energy Secretary, Secretary of Commerce and then you will see Newt the "conservative". I mean Newt the "globalist".
Cut entitlements
10:36AM JAN 28TH 2012
"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."

A) Well yeah, they are all angry..., they are old people from Florida..., get off my lawn kid..., and hell no I'm not paying taxes to support schools, it's all about me. Oh.., newt is 68 too..., wow, what a coincidence.
B) Tea party members are like android handsets, (cell phones, old people) they are so fractured about what they want, they don't even know they are on the same team. All they know is that they don't want to be democrat or republican't, so they think that they are their own special little party. Sad part is, in 10 to 15 years, the tea party will be a shell of it's former self, because the majority of the folks in it are over 60, and their health goes or they die. Better to be a independent.
C) I truly do hope that that Newt (cause nobody can spell his last name, and it looks like "Grinch" that stole christmas) wins the GOP primary, because, that would be another 4 years for the black guy. Sure....., the black guy could beat romney, but it would be a tighter race.
Either way, who ever wins the primary, is going to lose a good portion of votes from the other side due to, just not going to vote because my guy didn't win (Newt) or the establishment, there no way in hell I'm going to vote for that crazy nut newt, (Romney) Do the math, you just don't have the numbers.
D) the Tea party is about cutting cost and reeling in spending.
Let's start with social security, and Medicaid & Medicare. That would save us a bunch of money over the long run, and those old people are just going to die anyhow. For me.... shoot..., thank god I get railroad retirement, which is more than SS.
See you in the fall people....., well half of you may be gone by then, but,
"C'est la vie."

Yeahhhhh...., good luck with that.
12:44PM JAN 28TH 2012
Interesting propaganda--not even close to accurate--and I find it interesting that the Tea Party has given enough of a national scare that liberal media has to strike up the rumor mill out of fear of the Tea Party's credibility. Keep it coming--it's just one way we know we hit a nerve. Happy Newt Year!
Jon Gethier
12:41PM JAN 28TH 2012
10 to 15 years??? the t party is so over right now... a sad reminder of a sad group
Conservative Voice
10:31AM JAN 28TH 2012
I am so disappointed in this movement. In 2010 we supported candidates not because we "thought" they could win. We supported them because they stood for our principles. We worked hard and we won. Now I hear that Ron Paul can't win so we should not support him. We preached Constitutional Government, we even have classes on the Constitution. Yet now when we have someone who breathes it and lives it daily we support others because "he can"t win" or "he is out of touch" with the "experts" in foreign affairs.

Ask yourself this simple question. If Ron Paul was elected president, how much of his foreign policy would the House and Senate allow? Exactly! So why are you concerned. Far more of his fiscal policies will pass than the foreign policy.

Oh and one more thing. Newt has missed the deadline in many states to run in the primary. He cannot win enough delegates to receive the nomination on the first ballot at the convention. Better hope it is brokered.
Emmett Randall
10:55AM JAN 28TH 2012
If Newt was willing to lie to his wives for years, and very publicly ... and recently called Paul Ryan's budget "right wing social engineering", why would the TEA Party support this loose cannon? If the TEA Party supports this guy, they lose my support. My convictions are a bit stronger.
10:27AM JAN 28TH 2012
Any tea party group that endorses Newt has lost what little respectability they had. NEWT IS TOXIC, and a great example of the "emperor has no clothes". Wake up Republicans, nominating Newt will hand the election to Obama!
10:17AM JAN 28TH 2012
There are still many of us in the tea party movement who stand on principle and will not endorse a candidate. That is not what we organized for. We do not want to be a political party, as the players in this article have become.
We know that putting faith in either political party to "rescue" you is pure folly. Seek the candidate of principle and values. Become a better citizen and demand better government. There is no "Tea Party" in Florida.
Jim B.
10:14AM JAN 28TH 2012
I am just going to cut to the chase here folks.

When the Tea Party Movement began it was for Less Taxes, Limited Constitutional Government and Free Markets.

It is so removed from that now. It is a shell of itself. Vote for who you wish, it matters not as you have now lost your soul.

As for the convicted criminal Doug Guetzloe, I will agree with him on one issue. This coalition is meaningless. They use their individual names and then try to tie their individual groups into the coalition. Sullivan cannot muster enough political influence to have her own organization to endorse, she has to invent one. As for her "Patriot Army" it is a slap in the face to the real Patriot Army fighting night and day overseas for our freedom. Just because you are a prolific breeder does not give someone the leeway for someone to call her brood and army.
12:40PM JAN 28TH 2012
"When the Tea Party Movement began it was for Less Taxes, Limited Constitutional Government and Free Markets. "

Ron Paul's platform exactly.
Anna K.
12:08PM JAN 28TH 2012
"Sullivan cannot muster enough political influence to have her own organization to endorse, she has to invent one."
"Just because you are a prolific breeder does not give someone the leeway for someone to call her brood and army."

You certainly called that one right Jim.
10:05AM JAN 28TH 2012
Sure, go ahead and endorse someone who is not running for anything except ego and money. Or you can endorse someone who is running; to protect his millions and a 14% tax rate he feels he is entitled to.
11:45AM JAN 28TH 2012
The Great American Traditions: whining about a guy who paid $3M in taxes last year, and gave another $3M to charity, while most of us pay nothing. I pay nothing in %, because the IRS demands I pay in $.

Not even spaghetti dinners. But, who would fall for that? As in, "Why should Warren Buffet's secretary pay a higher % of her income for a spaghetti dinner than Warren Buffet? After all, he has more, so he should pay more. (% and way more $).

Romney paid more in taxes last year than the majority of Americans will pay in a hundred lifetimes, and for that, he is called the slacker.
Jon Gethier
12:49PM JAN 28TH 2012
dont believe anyone called him a slacker freddie boy, a slacker he is not...a thief, yea, a con man, yes, a usless carpetbagger, yes.... you and your party is a party of fools...
6:52PM JAN 28TH 2012
Have you ever thought of taking a course in basic English writing? When you write, you are the one who ends up looking like a fool.

Check with your local community college.
Time Traveler
9:29AM JAN 28TH 2012
A vote for Newt is a vote for nukes.
9:18AM JAN 28TH 2012
Why does America have enemies?
Somebody please wake me up.
phillip johnson
9:07AM JAN 28TH 2012
A vote for Newt Gingrich is a vote for another term for Barack Obama,
he cannot defeat O'bama in the general election with his high negatives and lack of appeal to independants.
indi john
11:31AM JAN 28TH 2012
You're wrong. Independents love him, and Paul. But the Mormon won't get individual or Christian votes
12:35PM JAN 28TH 2012
Actually, Ron Paul is the only candidate who consistently receives high poll numbers from Independents.
11:47AM JAN 28TH 2012
The GOP could nominate a ham sandwich in the fall and get my vote.
6:53PM JAN 28TH 2012
Your statement is the reason that no one should ever vote for a GOP candidate. You are mindless sheep. Enjoy the ham sandwich.
Jon Gethier
12:51PM JAN 28TH 2012
but freddie, I already told you that you were a fool....
8:55AM JAN 28TH 2012
Up until I voted for Ronald Reagan, I had been a registered Democrat; then switched parties and registered as a Republican up until George W. Bush; and now I'm proudly registered as an INDEPENDENT. When the Democrats nominated John Kerry, my independent friends shrugged and said, 'I guess they just don't want to win-just make a point'. If the Republicans nominate Gingrich, it will be as cathartic for them as the biggest bumper sticker they can find. Maybe that feeling they'll get will be more important than winning.
Jon Gethier
12:54PM JAN 28TH 2012
you ought to be good with Romney, he is a flip flopper too!
6:13PM JAN 28TH 2012
Newt couldn't even decide which of his wives would be a "good first lady". So he dumped all the sick ones. Jon, Jon, where is your brain...Newt it the original flip flopper. Oh, and you can add outright liar to the list.
8:48AM JAN 28TH 2012
In the past i forced myself to vote for horrible candidates such as Bush 1, dole, Bush 2, McCain, but there is no way i will go to vote if Romney is the GOP candidate. I am so disgusted with the leadership of the GOP that i will change my registration to independent> Romney will lose against Obama, he is a target reach territory:
Bain capital, Mormon, 14% tax rate, Swiss and Cayman bank accounts, he can't put two words together, he repeats one liners that someone else prepared for him. GOP leadership wants to lose this election as well just like 2008
Emmett Randall
10:34AM JAN 28TH 2012
Mormon! You left out Black Helicopters, President of the Secret World Order Society, and Area 51 alien coverups. It's no wonder they advertise "Make money at home licking envelopes" on radio stations you listen to.
Jon Gethier
12:56PM JAN 28TH 2012
emmett seems to have a conservative up his rear.....
Emmett Randall
10:26AM JAN 29TH 2012
Get back to licking the envelopes Jon!

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