American Majority President Ned Ryun called for Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann to drop out of the presidential race Thursday, claiming that she was damaging the tea party movement. But other tea party groups told The Daily Caller they disagree.
In a post on his group’s blog, Ryun wrote: “It’s time for Michele Bachmann to go.”
“An individual personality or organization purporting to be a ‘leader’ of what is truly a grassroots movement can hurt the tea party brand by creating false impressions about its core beliefs,” Ryun wrote, arguing that Bachmann’s focus on social issues, and her lack of focus on substantive policy proposals, would distract from the tea party’s message of fiscal restraint.
Moreover, he noted, her struggles in the polls and frequent news reports of campaign staffers quitting “risks hurting the credibility of the movement.”
“I certainly don’t agree with that,” said Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns for FreedomWorks. In his opinion, Bachmann has “as much tea party credibility … as all those guys.”
“I think people want them to compete to see who emerges,” Steinhauser said. “I don’t think it’s helpful to ask any of these guys to drop out. At least let them compete in Iowa,” after which point, he noted, the field would likely narrow itself.
Moreover, he added, “I haven’t heard any local groups asking for anyone to drop out.”
Steinhauser speculated that there “could be something more personal there between [Bachmann] and American Majority” that prompted the post.
The Bachmann campaign had a similar take. In a statement given to CNN, Bachmann Campaign Manager Keith Nahigian dismissed Ryun’s call.
“The strength of the Tea Party is all individuals’ opinions are valued but the no single leader speaks for it. Mr. Ryun, who supports Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is entitled to his own opinion,” Nahigian wrote. “And that’s exactly what he is expressing.”
According to Nahigian, “Michele Bachmann enjoys strong support from Americans across party lines and that certainly includes the Tea Party.”
Sal Russo, co-founder and chief strategist of Tea Party Express, said that with many voters still undecided, “I don’t think I’d be encouraging anybody to get in or get out.”
“Voters are still moving around — they’re not locked in yet, so I don’t think we’re at a point yet where we have to narrow the field,” he said.
Russo said that each of the candidates had attended Tea Party Express events and reached out to the group, and that Bachmann was not the only standard-bearer of the movement in the race.
He also noted that while the tea party movement emphasizes economic issues, it doesn’t necessarily preclude social issues.
“While the Tea Party Express focuses exclusively on economic issues, we’ve always welcomed other organizations to take on a broader range of issues than we have,” he said.
Russo added that he didn’t think Ryun expressing his opinion was necessarily bad. In fact, he said, the tea party movement gains strength “because of the diversity of viewpoints.”