There’s still a fair amount of lingering mistrust among Tea Partiers toward Mitt Romney — just this Monday, Romney failed to generate much enthusiasm at a rally explicitly designed to get members of the right-wing movement fired up about the Romney campaign. But Romney adviser Ron Kaufman is convinced that Romney, far from being an outsider, “actually is the Tea Party movement.” ThinkProgress caught up with Kaufman at the GOP convention and asked him what he thought about his boss’ relationship with the Tea party. Here’s what he had to say:
KAUFMAN: He is the ideal Tea Party candidate…forget about attributes, let’s put a resume on the table for who should be the next President of the United States from your [Tea Party] Perspective. You get all that, and at the end of the day you get Mitt Romney’s resume. Someone who’s not of Washington, never worked in Washington, etc. Someone who cares about the economy, someone who can fix problems, he’s the perfect Tea Party Candidate.
THINKPROGRESS: Do you think if he’s elected President, that Tea Parties will be able to count on him in the White House?
KAUFMAN: Count on him in terms of what? …I guarantee you this: he will be the most fiscally conservative — make this government work better, reduce the debt, reduce taxes, create jobs — President in history. That’s exactly what they want. And they can count on that.
Kaufman’s position (which Romney himself has pushed before) isn’t widely held among Tea Partiers, who vehemently opposed Romney’s candidacy at the outset of the primary campaign. Influential Tea Party Group FreedomWorks called him an “establishment hack” and organized a rally against him, while Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) labelled him “NewtRomney” to signify his Washington insider status. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said it “will be a big challenge” for Romney to attract Tea Party votes and Herman Cain openly questioned whether Romney’s religion would limit his appeal among the movement’s southern base. Indeed, Romney failed to attract many votes from self-describe Tea Party voters in the primary until he became the clear favorite to win.
Or, as Dustin Stockman, proprietor of TeaPartyNet.com, put it at the tepid Monday rally: “I think we’re still warming up to Romney…Frankly he wasn’t most of our first or second choices.”