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January 22, 2011

Snubbing The Senate Tea Party Caucus?

Did Marco Rubio snub the Senate's new Tea Party Caucus? Not exactly.

While he was running for office, Rubio declined the label of " tea party candidate," although he spoke positively about the movement and its goals and was considered its leading advocate among candidates for office nationwide.

Rubio "is proud of his relationship with the tea party movement and shares its commitment to attacking the debt, defending the free enterprise system and restoring the tradition of limited government," said spokesman Alex Burgos.

He confirmed that Rubio has been invited to join the tea party caucus, but "has not made any decision about caucus memberships at this point."

That's not a no, but clearly he's not running to sign up.

So far only Jim DeMint (SC), Rand Paul (KY) and Mike Lee (UT) have officially joined. Pat Toomey (PA) isn't saying yes or no. It seems only Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has officially said no thanks.

Johnson said through his spokeswoman Friday that he has no plans of joining the caucus.

“I sprang from the tea party and have great respect for what it represents,” said Johnson in a prepared statement. “The reason I ran for the U.S. Senate was to not only stop the Obama agenda but reverse it. I believe our best chance of doing that is to work towards a unified Republican conference, so that’s where I will put my energy.”

I imagine some will be disappointed, some might even be pissed but I think it is smart politics. What do the three members of the tea party caucus have in common? They are from deep red states. What do the two waverers and one "no" have in common? They come from purple to blueish states.

The tea party is a major force but it's not enough alone in places like WI, FL and PA (3 states Obama carried) to win. Those guys have to walk a fine line between pleasing their base and appealing to the wider electorate. When you are dealing with a larger universe of voters, you need to build coalitions to win. That's why flat out tea party types were able to do very well in smaller, more homogeneous House races but had mixed results in statewide contests (again, outside of very red states).

Bottom line...what's more important, that Toomey, Rubio and Johnson vote right and stay in office or join a meaningless group? If you think it's joining a group, you may be more interested in proving a point than in enacting real conservative policies.

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posted by DrewM. at 04:43 PM

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