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The Improbable Tea Party Candidate

Gingrich gets a Tea Party boost, but can it last?

2:39 PM, Dec 14, 2011 • By OWEN BRENNAN
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Stephen Kruiser and Tony Katz are California-based Tea Party activists.  Kruiser boasts an audience of more than 133,000 Twitter followers, making him a one-man Tea Party when he’s not speaking at events across the country. “If I have to support Newt, I will,” he says, but adds, “I think most people in the Tea Party movement can embrace Newt solely because he’s not Mitt.”

Katz, a talk radio host and Tea Party organizer says Gingrich can earn something from the Tea Party that Romney cannot, “I think the Tea Party can have serious philosophical differences with Newt. But he can earn the respect of the Tea Party. Newt’s not defensive when he’s defending his positions and he’s big into Reagan’s 80-20 rule.”

Katz explains that even though some of Gingrich’s past, present, and future policies might not be congruent with Tea Party core principles, Tea Party activists should like his style. “There’s some rugged individualism with Newt and that will set him apart from Romney.”

But if Newt wants to translate the current interest from Tea Party activists into actual votes in Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond, Kruiser says Newt has to declare his position right now and define who he is.

“He has to say, ‘I’m standing with you now. I’m not going to pivot.’” Kruiser adds, “He has to do what he did with his personal life. Tell us he’s changed religions and he’s not the man he used to be.”

Hecker has two words of advice for the candidate, “Be humble.”

“Recognize and give credit to the Tea Party movement for your rise,” Hecker adds, cautioning against any impression of inevitability. “The movement is supporting Gingrich because it wants a real conservative in the White House. And that’s not Romney.”

Perhaps Gingrich’s best chance to win Tea Party support and find a path to victory in 2012 means he has to be both ‘Not Romney’ and ‘Not Newt.’

The former executive producer of PJTV, Owen Brennan covered the Tea Party movement since it began. He is also a former speechwriter for Mayor Giuliani and a former producer for Bill O’Reilly. Owen is now a writer and producer in Los Angeles. He can be reached at OWBrennan@gmail.com.

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