McMahon campaign shrugs at possible backing of national Tea Party group
What do you get the candidate who has everything?
It is a challenge that a national ally of the Tea-Party movement, FreedomWorks, faces in endorsing Republican Linda McMahon, whose self-financed U.S. Senate campaign has, well, nearly everything.
“We’re obviously not seeking financial support, particularly from outside groups,” said Ed Patru, the communications director for the McMahon campaign.
McMahon has put $24 million into her campaign and has stated a willingness to go as high as $50 million to win the seat now held by the retiring five-term Democrat, Christopher J. Dodd.
McMahon is among Republicans that FreedomWorks is set to endorse later this week, according to the Washington Post. FreedomWorks did not comment on the report.
Patru said the campaign has not been contacted by FreedomWorks, which is chaired by former U.S. House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, who became a Washington lobbyist after leaving Congress.
“We haven’t participated in any kind of strategy meetings,” he said.
Pitching McMahon as an outsider, the campaign has been wary of close associations with anything from Washington. In fact, some Tea Party groups have been wary of Armey.
Patru said McMahon is happy to find support among grass-roots Tea Party groups in Connecticut.
“What all of them have in common, they are very dissatisfied with the direction Washington has taken the country,” he said.
FreedomWorks’ specialty is described as training volunteers and organizing phone banks, something the McMahon campaign appears to have ample resources to do on its own.
Chris Healy, the Republican state chairman in Connecticut, said any endorsement that raises McMahon’s profile among Tea Party adherents has value.
“They have their own mailing lists. They have their own voters. That has real value,” Healy said.
Peter Schiff was the Tea Party favorite in the Republican Senate primary. McMahon has been making inroads, although some Tea Party protesters outside a recent Barack Obama fundraiser for Democrat Richard Blumenthal made clear they were there to oppose Blumenthal, not support McMahon.
Joe Markley, a Tea Party activists and Republican candidate for state Senate in Southington, said McMahon has been doing well with the movement on her own.
He was unsure what FreedomWorks or any of the other national Tea Party groups would bring her.
“There’s nothing national with the Tea Party going on in Connecticut,” Markley said. “There is no paid local person. There is no funding.”
He hosted a meeting in April that introduced McMahon to the Tea Party, which actually is a loose collection of groups, not a party.
“I appreciate the passion that you bring to the table, your willingness to fight for what you think is right and how we can reinstitute the American dream in our country,” McMahon told them.
Her message of smaller government and a balanced budget plays well with the movement, but McMahon is too middle-of-the-road for some adherents, who challenge the constitutionality of the federal government’s role in health and social welfare programs, including Social Security.
McMahon said she objected to the health-care bill reform, but not because it is an overreach of the federal government. She would prefer to see it repealed and have Congress try again, with a bipartisan approach.
As a member of the state Board of Education, McMahon supported the state’s application for federal Race to the Top funds, an education program that many in the Tea Party see as another federal intrusion into what should be the province of local and state government.
But McMahon did tell the group she would consider voting to eliminate the U.S. Department of Education, as well as the Department of Energy and, possibly, the Environmental Protection Agency.
UPDATE: McMahon’s campaign says McMahon’s position to the Tea Party was that she would have to study the issue, before deciding if she could support dismantling any federal agency.
“I’m not sure that I know an agency should be totally dismantled and done away with until I’ve had an opportunity to look at it more,” she said. “Some that come to mind that I think would have a first look: one would be the Department of Education.” She then mentioned the Department of Energy and EPA.
Video of her remarks, taken by an audience member, is available on YouTube.
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