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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But Tea Partiers insist that they are not beholden to the GOP and warn that Republican candidates counting on an endorsement from them in November may well be disappointed.Skip to next paragraph
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Interviews with Tea Partiers across the country paint a picture of a genuine, amorphous, conservative grassroots movement united by three core principles: constitutionally limited government, free market ideology and low taxes. The American Constitution is a rallying cry and many now dub themselves "constitutional conservatives."
They are angry not just at what they describe as the socialist policies of U.S. President Barack Obama. They also feel Republican politicians have betrayed the party's ideals. For many in the movement, purging the party of moderate Republicans is a major goal.
"I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool Republican. Now if we have a Republican lined up to come to our meetings, I don't even want to go," said Nate Friedl, 41, a member of the Rock River Patriots, a Tea Party group in southern Wisconsin.
Following a first year marked by protests, the movement is evolving. The political novices of a year ago are forming coalitions and learning how to change things from the ground up.
After rallying against government bailouts and Obama's healthcare reforms, as well as mobilizing the vote for key electoral races such as Republican Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts in January, many Tea Partiers feel empowered.
"Tea Party people have realized that you cannot change the system by protesting on the outside," said Richard Viguerie, author of 'Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause.'
The movement is also debating whether to remain independent -- or stage a conservative takeover of the Republican Party. And some, a tiny minority, favor becoming a third party.
An Ipsos/Reuters poll shows that although a majority of Democrats and a plurality of independents voters would support Tea Party candidates, less than one third of Republicans would support them as a third party.
Regardless of the debate's outcome, Tea Partiers are targeting not just prominent Democrats in the midterms but also key moderate Republicans like Charlie Crist in Florida and former presidential candidate John McCain in Arizona. United as never before by the internet and weekly conference calls, conservatives are eyeing a few "national" primary races.