Afraid Of Tea Partiers, Armey Withholds Support From McCain In Race Against ‘Undistinguished’ J.D. Hayworth

Dick Armey John McCain is locked in a tough battle to retain Republican support for his U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, facing a challenge from far-right former congressman J.D. Hayworth. Conservative talk show host Mark Levin, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and numerous conservative websites have backed Hayworth over McCain, who has generally been rejected by the Tea Party movement.

But on Monday, the New York Times broke the news that FreedomWorks Chairman and Tea Party profiteer Dick Armey has bucked his beloved movement and endorsed McCain. Buried near the bottom of the New York Times’ story:

Even within the fractured Tea Party movement, Mr. McCain is not without support. He is endorsed by Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, the populist movement’s darling, and Sarah Palin, his running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign. And Dick Armey, whose FreedomWorks organization has become front and center in the movement, says he is throwing his support behind Mr. McCain.

Yesterday in a blog post, however, FreedomWorks shot back at the New York Times, disputing the paper’s story:

The New York Times reported recently that FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey has endorsed Sen. John McCain in the GOP primary in Arizona. This is not the case, although this story has been picked up and repeated by countless media personalities and reporters around the country.

This seems to be a good case study in how false information can make its way around the internet and the airwaves before it can be corrected. But we wanted to post a quick statement for all of you who have asked us about this.

Armey’s refusal to endorse McCain seems like pandering to the Tea Party movement. After all, Armey — formerly the Republican House Majority Leader — told the Arizona Republic recently that McCain has had a distinguished career, unlike Hayworth:

“We’re a small organization with a limited budget. There’s an awful lot of places where our presence would be needed and can really make a difference. We don’t see this Arizona race as one where we need to be actively involved. It’s hard for us to believe that J.D. Hayworth could mount a credible challenge to John McCain. Obviously, we’ll watch the race. But J.D. had a fairly short, undistinguished congressional career with virtually no initiative on his part. I just don’t see any reason why we should be concerned about that race.” […]

“There’s nobody who can match McCain’s record on fiscal responsibility,” he said.

As I recall, J.D. was on the Ways and Means Committee and I didn’t really see him make any distinguished effort, for example, like people like (Arizona GOP Reps.) Jeff Flake and John Shadegg in terms of creative ideas and legislative initiative,” Armey said. “Certainly nothing on the cost-control front. But John McCain was the first guy to understand the need to get earmarks under control. He took a real leadership role, as did Jeff Flake.

Armey may be trying to avoid the backlash that Palin received when she announced her support for her former running mate. Fox News host Glenn Beck said, “This Sarah Palin thing really bothers me,” and conservative blogger Michelle Malkin wrote that Tea Party activists were “rightly outraged by Sarah Palin’s decision to campaign for McCain.” Even Paul Streitz, co-founder of the 2012 Draft Sarah Committee, lamented, “What should this be called, the Rinoization of Sarah Palin.”