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The Tea Party Express--an organization famous for its cross-country jaunts and rousing rallies--has runover Republican Vaughn Ward.  In a shocking move, the Tea Party Express endorsed Ward's opponent for the upcoming midterm elections--Blue Dog Dem Walt Minnick. 

A project of Our Country Deserves Better PAC, the Tea Party Express recently capped off its latest national trek--aptly named the "Just Vote Them Out!" tour--by announcing its endorsement for the Democrat incumbentRedState reports that Minnick's time in Congress has focused on typical liberal, big government policies that run contrary to tea party priorities:
Minnick voted for a wide range of big government programs. As a sampler he voted to expand SCHIP. He voted to kill Jeff Flake’s resolution restricting earmarks. He voted to kill the resolution that would have removed Charlie Rangel from his committee chairmanship. He voted against the RSC blueprint to reduce the budget.

Moreover, Minnick’s first vote in Congress when elected in 2008 was for Nancy Pelosi as speaker. His first vote in the next Congress, if reelected, will be the same.
Confused?  So are many Idaho tea partyersTea Party Boise said they were "surprised" by the group's endorsement of Rep. Minnick and advised them to "talk to those in Idaho who cast the votes."  Likewise, the Idaho Tea Party Patriots group was "very disappointed" to hear about the Tea Party Express endorsement and stressed, "Minnick is no conservative." 

A tea party organization's official endorsement of such a candidate sheds light on a major problem that threatens to undermine the entire movement.  Obviously the Tea Party Express does not speak for all self-identified tea partyers; no organization can or should speak for everyone.  But the endorsement of such a well-known group is mistakenly being interpreted by many--namely the media--to be a tea party movement endorsement.

In any given race, whether there seems to be a consensus or not, I'd recommend national tea party organizations avoid endorsing an individual candidate. The tea party movement does not stand for one candidate over another, but rather for particular principles and values. 

The Tea Party Express is a great organization with a lot to contribute to the national debate, but their endorsements (and the endorsements of other national tea party organizations) should not be considered the endorsements of the tea party movement

The tea party's lack of central leadership and its reliance on grassroots self-motivation are things that have made the movement strong.  National groups who purport to speak for the entire movement threaten to undermine its cohesive nature.  When it comes to deciding who gets your vote in November, look to the tea party of your own local communities.  After all, that's where the heart and soul of this grassroots movement are firmly planted.
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