Interviews with top officials at FreedomWorks, a Washington-based organizing hub for Tea Party activists around the country, revealed that much of their thinking about the 2012 election revolves around derailing the former Massachusetts governor.
“Romney has a record and we don’t really like it that much,” said Adam Brandon, the group’s communications director.
Matt Kibbe, CEO and President said in an interview that FreedomWorks has no plans at the moment to endorse an opponent of Romney’s in the primary. But others in the organization made clear they will devote considerable resources toward helping whoever emerges as the most viable Republican in the primary other than the putative front runner.
Brendan Steinhauser, who travels around the country meeting with activists as FreedomWorks’ top liaison to the grassroots, said most people he talks to are “definitely trying to stop Romney.”
“I don’t think I’ve met any groups or any local activists that like him or want him to be president,” Steinhauser said. “They just don’t believe he’s authentic. That’s the biggest problem in addition to the health care thing.”
Kibbe expressed skepticism about the power of Romney’s advantages in fundraising and name ID, comparing him to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat last year to insurgent candidate and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio.
“Charlie Crist had everything, right? He had name ID, tons of money in the bank. He was the sitting governor, he had all the advantages of incumbency, and yet this ragtag insurgent movement connected to a capable candidate and blew up that whole model,” Kibbe said. “In some ways Romney looks like the Charlie Crist of this cycle: he’s got all the money, he’s got the name ID.”
“It’s not just about money anymore. It’s about grassroots organization and an ability to organize,” he added.
Mitt Romney the Charlie Crist of 2012? Ouch.