Mitt Romney Faces Tea Party Protesters

The most moderate of the top three Republican candidates, Romney is distrusted by some conservatives in the party. They particularly dislike a healthcare reform he enacted while governor of Massachusetts that some consider a model for President Barack Obama’s 2010 national healthcare overhaul.

About 25 members and activists of assorted Tea Party organizations in New Hampshire held a counter-demonstration on Sunday, before the appearance of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, stating that while the candidate was speaking at the Tea Party Express rally in Concord, they did not consider him a member of the movement. Photo: Marc Nozell/Flickr

Romney, a multimillionaire former businessman, said his experience in the private sector makes him uniquely qualified to tackle stubbornly high unemployment.

“I love this great land, I know we face extraordinary challenges, and I happen to believe that career politicians got us into this mess, and the career politicians can’t get us out of this mess,” Mr. Romney said. “It will take someone who understands how the private economy works because he’s worked in the private economy, and I have. I’m a business guy.”

Along with a coalition of a dozen other Tea Party and liberty groups, FreedomWorks also organized a protest before Mr. Romney’s speech Sunday. But attendance at the protest was sparse, drawing a little more than a dozen supporters.

“We don’t want him portrayed as New Hampshire’s Tea Party candidate,” said Jerry DeLemus, chairman of the Granite State Patriots Liberty P.A.C.

Romney is due to present a major policy plan on jobs this week, ahead of Obama’s speech to Congress on how to alleviate unemployment of 9 percent.

“We did an unusual thing about 3 years ago as a people, we elected a person who had never worked in the private sector, who never had a job in the private sector and never really been a leader anywhere, and didn’t have a track record, and people asked, what would happen if we elected as president someone with no experience. Now we know, and its not a very pretty picture, is it?” Romney said.

A person in the crowd wore a dolphin suit, and waved a pair of yellow flip-flops in reference to criticism of Romney as a flip flopper on policies.

“We do not need leadership that puts up a finger in the wind to see which way the wind is blowing and then changes direction,” said Tim Carter, a protest leader.

“When it comes to less government, which the Tea Party stands for, how could you possibly explain that with Romneycare?” said Tim Carter, a co-leader of the Lakes Region Tea Party in New Hampshire, referring to the term some conservatives have adopted for Mr. Romney’s healthcare legislation. “It doesn’t even compute.”

FreedomWorks organizers circulated a seven-page memo detailing parts of Mr. Romney’s record that they said were incompatible with Tea Party principles. The memo drew mostly on Mr. Romney’s actions as governor of Massachusetts, focusing heavily on the healthcare legislation that he introduced in the state that conservatives criticize as being similar to Mr. Obama’s federal healthcare legislation.

“It seems to me that Mitt Romney is treating this as a photo opp to check the box and to get the photo opp that he’s cool with the Tea Party — and he’s not cool with the Tea Party,” said Adam Brandon, a spokesman for FreedomWorks. “All of our activists are pretty peeved he would even try to embrace the Tea Party message.”

Mr. Romney, who was preceded by his wife, Ann, emphasized his business background and years in the private sector, but also hit some themes popular with the Tea Party movement — namely, freedom.

“I believe in America,” Mr. Romney said. “I believe in our freedoms, our political freedom. I believe in our economic and personal freedoms. I believe in free enterprise, I believe in capitalism.”

In recent days Mr. Romney has been ramping up his Tea Party outreach. Last week the Romney campaign announced that he would be attending a candidate forum over Labor Day weekend in Columbia, S.C., an event he had previously planned to skip. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the forum’s host, is popular with social conservatives and Tea Party groups.

“I want to appeal to the Tea Party voters,” Mr. Romney told the paper’s editorial board. “I don’t know what folks here in New Hampshire would say, but my guess is most Tea Partiers, or a lot of them, would support my candidacy.”

A recent Gallup poll showed 29 percent of Republicans would likely vote for Perry, while 17 percent would support Romney. [via The New York Times, Yahoo! and International Business Times]

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