McManus: Is the tea party over?
Not exactly. The tea party has changed the political landscape in ways that are likely to last for a while. But its least favorite candidate, Mitt Romney, just came up big in Iowa.
By Doyle McManus
January 5, 2012
A year ago, the tea party movement looked like an irresistible wave sweeping through the Republican Party. Anyone who hoped to win this year's GOP presidential nomination, it seemed, would need to embrace tea party activists' stringent demands for smaller government, lower taxes and deep cuts in spending.
But in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, the three candidates who hewed closest to the tea party line — Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich — sank straight to the bottom of the pack. Instead of choosing a rigorous fiscal conservative such as Bachmann, Perry or Gingrich, Iowa Republicans divided most of their votes between Mitt Romney, the tea party's least favorite candidate, and Rick Santorum, a social conservative who voted for big spending and defended congressional earmarks when he was in the Senate. Ron Paul, at third place, was the most successful of the tea party-friendly candidates, but the acerbic libertarian's claim to 22% of Tuesday's caucus votes could well turn out to be his high-water mark for the year.