FreedomWorks: Tea Party may stay home if Romney nominated

If Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination for president, Tea Party activists may not show up at all to vote in the general election, one leading group associated with the Tea Party movement is warning.

“I think that’s a potential problem,” said Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks’ president, during a wide-ranging interview with reporters at The Daily Caller.

He also warned that if Republicans nominate another “John McCain,” activists might even vote third party in 2012.

“I believe in redemption, but at some point, you sort of give up,” he said. “And we’ve given up on Mitt Romney.”

(California GOP gives obvious nod to Tea Party in new video)

Tea Party-types have expressed their distaste for Romney, who they say heralded a health-care law in his home state of Massachusetts very similar to the one pushed by President Obama. Joe Miller, a former U.S. Senate candidate in Alaska, is now running a “Stop Romney” campaign, for example.

Adam Brandon, another staffer at FreedomWorks, said he also worries that if voters don’t show up to vote because of Romney, it could hurt other candidates down the ticket that they like.

“We’ve got so many great House candidates we got to defend,” he said. “So many great Senate candidates we go to win.”

Kibbe suggested that after several rounds of primaries and an alternative to Romney emerges, Tea Partiers will coalesce around that candidate.

Asked about other candidates, Kibbe said: “I like Sarah Palin. I like what she stands for. She’s authentic. And she does have juice with the grassroots.”

(ABC News calls Palin a ‘sideshow candidate’)

But he added: “I think she needs to prove that she can study up, consistently build a campaign machine. She’s got to pass the same tests as everybody else. I think those are open question marks.”

One 2012 candidate who can boast of Tea Party support is former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain. But asked if Cain will see problems because of his support for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) legislation, he said: “Possibly because his brand is the pure principle guy.

TARP called for the government in 2008 to purchase $700 billion in assets from troubled financial institutions — legislation that is often referred to as the impetus for the modern day Tea Party movement.

“I think it hurts him more than it might hurt somebody else because that’s his niche in a very crowded market,” Kibbe said.