Trouble brewing between the Tea Party movement and the GOP?
Members of the Tea Party movement say they are not beholden to the GOP.
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"Many people in Arizona feel that John McCain has leaned across the aisle," said Kathy Boatman, a member of the East Valley Tea Party in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert. "But the only problem is that when he leans across the aisle ... they pull him down, and sometimes flat on his face."Skip to next paragraph
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At a Tea Party event in south Miami, everyone favored Rubio, who has a substantial lead over Crist in the polls.
"Charlie Crist is exactly what we don't want," said Nancy Meinhardt, a paralegal and a leading light in the Florida Tea Party movement. "He's a Republican in name only, he's not a conservative. It's all a facade."
While some Tea Party groups endorse candidates, others steadfastly do not. "We leave that to individual groups to decide on a local level whether to endorse someone," Tea Party Patriots' Meckler said.
Tea Party candidates did not fare well in the Texas primaries in early March, though James Henson, a politics professor at the University of Texas, said the state is a "low tax, low service, small government environment."
"Texas is already Tea Party country," he said. "You'd have to represent some fairly extreme views to push Republicans here further to the right."
"In the midterms I wouldn't be surprised to see Tea Party voters hold their noses and vote for the Republican candidates who won the primaries."
In the primaries in Illinois in early February, with the exception of Joe Walsh, Tea Party candidates fared badly. Tony Raymond of the Northern Illinois Patriots said Tea Partiers were kicking themselves for not getting involved sooner.
"We missed the boat and are now stuck with some candidates we'd rather not vote for," he said.
Chris Merrill, a conservative radio host in Kansas City, said even if candidates are not running specifically as Tea Party candidates many are running on fiscal conservative platforms. "In some years the Tea Party message would not have resonated like it does this year," he said. "It's hard to say how many Tea Party candidates will get elected, but we will see more fiscal conservatives."
"We'll have to wait and see whether that will still be the case in 2012."
Of the possible challenges ahead for the Tea Party movement the two main ones are not from the left, but from the right.
The first comes from social conservatives, or the religious right. The Tea Party movement is dominated by fiscal conservatives and leaders like Eric Odom of the American Liberty Alliance say social issues like abortion and gay marriage should be avoided.
When asked about abortion, for instance, Tina Dupont of the Tea Party of West Michigan says the group does not discuss it. "Most of us are probably pro-lifers," she said. "But we avoid the topic because it is so divisive."