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Rand Paul's Romney endorsement raises Tea Party eyebrows

by Joe Arnold


Posted on June 8, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 8 at 9:41 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- One day after endorsing Mitt Romney, Kentucky's junior U.S. Senator Rand Paul created more headlines on Friday, saying it would be a "great honor" to be considered as Romney's running mate.

Paul said he had not discussed the prospect with Romney during a one-on-one meeting in Washington, D.C..

"It would be a great honor to be considered as a vice president for the Republican Party," Paul said on CNN. "I think that would be something that anybody who said otherwise would not be being truthful."

To most voters, it is probably not a shock that Paul, a conservative Republican opposed to most Obama administration directives, is endorsing Romney.  Yet, the move comes two years after bucking the Republican establishment en route to a U.S. Senate seat.

"My first thought was shock and dismay," said David Adams, a Tea Party activist who managed Paul's Republican primary campaign in 2010.  "My first thought really was that Rand may be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome."

On some blogs and message boards devoted to Paul's father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Rand Paul is being called a "sellout" for moving to Romney as soon as it became certain that his Ron Paul's presidential campaign had no chance.

"He's still my first pick," Rand Paul told Fox News Channel.  "But you know, now that the nominating process is over, tonight, I'm happy to announce, that I'm going to be supporting Governor Romney."

Adams said Paul is simply following through on an earlier promise to support the GOP nominee.

"So that's fine, but does mean that everybody in the movement goes lockstep in that same direction? Not a chance," Adams said.

Adams said no one really speaks for the Tea Party.

"This is where it comes down to, is the Tea Party movement really leaderless?  And I submit to you that we are," Adams said.

"It doesn't matter what Rand Paul says, it doesn't matter what any individual says," Adams continued.  "People who really want 'Obamacare' gone and for a leader to stand up and explain what's really wrong with it rather than just saying, as Governor Romney has said, that he likes everything about Obamacare except the tax increases.  Well, what does that mean?"

"I think that I can be an asset in solidifying the conservative base of the party," Paul said on Fox News.  "But I also think that myself, my father and the movement that he started attracts a lot of independents, also. So a lot of these young people are not necessarily the conservative base."

How much does Paul bring those voters to Romney?
"I think almost none," Adams said.

The challenge for Romney among conservatives appears to be whether he can harness any of the passion of the Tea Party. 

"Romney has a long way to go because if he's a McCain we're going to lose it," said Jean Treitz of Louisville, a Tea Party supporter.

"I would say that (Tea Party members) are probably more energized against Obama, but they'll certainly use that energy to make some serious waves in the election," said Sarah Durand, Louisville Tea Party President.

"I think that Sen. Paul's endorsement always carries a lot of weight especially with Tea Party people," Durand continued.  "It might cause some people to take a second look at Gov. Romney's career as a business person and success that he's had."

Durand said the "main difference is that Obama has no experience in the private sector."

"I've gotten e-mails from some of our members saying, 'You're not going to endorse Romney are you?'" Durand acknowledged.  "But there's two choices here and I would say that the choice is clear, and that is Mitt Romney is the better choice for our economy."

"There's no other choice for the United States at this point," Treitz said. "This is a crucial - this is the turning point whether we go socialist or beyond that or we go back to our roots."

Yet, Treitz wonders if Romney is up to the challenge.

"He's such a paleface.  He's such a monotone," Treitz said.  "You know, he needs to call Obama out. What's he got to lose?"

A relevant question, because the Tea Party is not the only voter bloc the candidates have to convince.

"I don't like Romney," said Jim Campbell of Louisville.  "I just, he's just not my guy."

And President Obama?

"Lesser of two evils," Campbell said, adding that Paul's endorsement both helps and hurts Romney's chances.

"I think it does both," Campbell said.  "I think there are those that are die hard alternative that are going, 'What a sell out,' and others that say, 'Maybe Romney isn't such a bad guy after all.'"

"Let's not kid ourselves," Adams said.  "(Romney) won a war of attrition in the Republican primary, but he hasn't convinced anybody."