Given the Tea Party's dramatic influence on the upcoming midterm elections -- whether one looks at the moderate Republicans they have already played a part in defeating or the Democrats they will knock out on November 2 -- many have begun to speculate on the movement's role in the 2012 Presidential race.
The first part of that race, of course, is deciding who the GOP will nominate to take on President Obama. The general consensus has formed, within many conservative circles as well as liberal, that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would be the movement's favorite.
However, a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that, in the words of Pater Wallsten, "One third of Republicans support the tea party so strongly that they describe themselves as part of the movement more than they identify as Republicans. Among this group, Mr. Gingrich is considered the GOP's "most important leader."
Palin, however, does win among the Republicans who while supportive of the Tea Party movement "identifies more as Republicans."
The article also discusses the two different manners in which Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have prepared for possible White House bids.
The reason they have followed different paths is simple: they simply view the movement differently. Whereas Romney, according to his advisers, "is betting that the tea-party groundswell, while energizing fiscal conservatives, doesn't mark a fundamental shift in the preferences of GOP voters." Basically, the movement will wither and not have an influence for much longer.
Gingrich's view as described by Wallsten:
[Gingrich] views the tea-party revolt as the dawn of an enduring movement, and he has spent more time courting tea-party activists than forging ties to Republican party leaders. Mr. Gingrich has recast his American Solutions group, launched in 2007 to press for expanded oil drilling and other policy initiatives, into a tea-party clearinghouse of sorts -- creating a curriculum to teach activists, small business owners and first-time candidates how to run campaigns. He is keeping in touch with this potential army of volunteers.So when it comes to building a base of support for a 2012 run, Governor Romney has courted a lot of party leaders. And Newt "is traveling the country to build alliances with local tea-party activists in key presidential primary and caucus states....assign[ing] a full-time staffer at American Solutions to recruit and work with local activists across the country. Many of those now in his database live in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- key early-voting states in the presidential primaries, where Mr. Gingrich has devoted time to meeting them in small groups."
Wallsten then gives the story of one such meeting:
Elisabet Wilson, a tea-party activist who lives near Greenville, S.C., said she received a call from a Gingrich aide last spring seeking her attendance at a May roundtable with the former speaker at a local hotel. When she arrived, she found a group of nearly 30 fellow activists.Wallsten continues, "Mr. Gingrich said American Solutions was intended to boost the conservative movement whether or not he runs."
"He went around the room and asked each of us, why did you get involved?" Ms. Wilson said.
Ms. Wilson later agreed to serve as a state coordinator for American Solutions.
"It's certainly probably broadly helpful (to a presidential campaign), but it's not designed for that,' Gingrich said." "We're happy to share our ideas and our information with everybody, with all the different candidates."