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On Michele Bachmann announcement day, a tea party nod to Rick Perry

An informal poll of tea partyers gathered for training in Washington found the strongest support for a noncandidate, Rick Perry. Michele Bachmann came in a close second.

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Ronnie Long of Concord, North Carolina, says he “really likes” pizza mogul Herman Cain, because he’s “plain-spoken and is a businessman, not a politician.” But he has reservations about Mr. Cain’s involvement with the Fed – he was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City in the mid-90s – and is concerned that may affect his judgment.

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Mr. Long adds that Perry and Bachmann both have “potential,” though he would prefer to keep social issues out of politics. Both are strong opponents of abortion.

“Pro-life, pro-choice, that’s very, very personal,” says Long, who is president of We the People North Carolina.

Another attendee, Daryn Kent-Duncan of New York City, opposes Bachmann for that reason – the congresswoman is too vocal in opposing abortion. “I’m pro-choice,” says Ms. Kent-Duncan, who extols the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, a foremother of the libertarian movement who supported the right to abortion.

Kent-Duncan’s assertion on abortion, born of personal experience, sparks a debate with a tea partyer standing next to her – a reminder that while many tea partyers oppose abortion, not all do. Many groups prefer just to focus on fiscal matters and steer clear of foreign policy and social issues.

One state with a big contingent at FreedomWorks was Utah, with 19 people present. Aside from the training, they had another big reason to come to Washington: put pressure on the National Republican Senatorial Committee to drop its support for Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. As a rule the NRSC, the official party committee that works to elect Republicans to the Senate, supports incumbents seeking reelection.

There is little chance the NRSC will ditch the six-term Senator Hatch, a conservative Republican with a record of working across the aisle. But the tea partyers, with signs saying “Retire Orrin Hatch,” were eager to make a show over at the NRSC headquarters.

“Hatch has voted 16 times to raise the debt ceiling,” says Darcy Van Orden from Salt Lake City, Utah. “He’s culpable in the expansion of government.”

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