After a recent meeting of the Greenville Tea Party in South Carolina, supporters of GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum handed out fliers and made themselves available to answer questions about their candidates, according to two people in the room.
They were the kind of person-to-person encounters that have been happening for months on tea party Facebook groups across South Carolina.
Although tea party gatherings have become less frequent since the November 2010 elections, the discussions and arguments have continued online.
Some Facebook users post several times a day as commenters weigh in on the latest Rasmussen poll, or the latest Web attack ad. It’s one part derision of President Barack Obama, one part support for Republican candidates.
“We must understand that if we get the right kind of person elected to each of our Congressional districts, any of the GOP Presidential candidates are better than the Dalibama, even Newt,” wrote one Facebook user.
One thing you won’t find posted? A pro-Romney comment, unless it’s included in an “anybody would be better than Obama” post.
Neither are the comments entirely positive. One commenter posted a YouTube video entitled “Rick Santorum: Tea Party Hypocrite.” Another criticized Ron Paul’s foreign policy comments on Iran.
In truth, the loyalties of these online tea partiers are still divided, or at least uncommitted, just over a week and a half before the South Carolina primary on Jan. 21.
That’s good and bad news for the candidates not named Mitt Romney, who trail the front-runner by double-digits, according to the latest Rasmussen and CNN/Time/ORC polls.