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Influential tea party group not ready to coalesce behind Romney

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

The tea party-aligned organization FreedomWorks is not ready to coalesce behind Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney yet, an official told The Daily Caller.

In fact, they’re still holding out hope that another Republican can still swoop in and beat him.

“We never got our natural candidate,” spokesman Adam Brandon told TheDC on Wednesday. “We’re focusing on the Senate, but watching the [Republican presidential] race to see if it heads to a brokered convention, and it looks like it might, to see if we can get someone else in.”

Brandon made the comments when asked to respond to a story published Wednesday by the Washington Times suggesting the grassroots organization — whose chairman is former Republican leader Dick Armey — has changed course by dropping its opposition to Romney’s campaign.

The paper reported that the group is moving away from its “anyone but Romney” mentality as he cements his status as the likely Republican nominee and appears more and more inevitable every week.

“We are dedicated to defeating Obama and electing a conservative Senate that will help Romney repeal Obamacare and address the nation’s economic and spending challenges,” FreedomWorks official Russ Walker told the newspaper, acknowledging that the math favors Romney being the nominee.

The newspaper’s headline read, “Finally, Romney gets tea party support.” But Brandon called that description “misleading.”

For months, the group has represented tea partiers who have said they can’t cast a vote for Romney, who championed a health-care law in Massachusetts similar to the one pushed by President Obama.

“I believe in redemption, but at some point, you sort of give up,” FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe told The Daily Caller in June as the presidential race was heating up. “And we’ve given up on Mitt Romney.”

In that same interview, Kibbe acknowledged the “potential problem” that tea partiers would stay home and not vote in the general election if Romney was nominated.

In August, FreedomWorks, along with local tea party leaders, protested Romney’s appearance at a Tea Party Express rally in New Hampshire.

Romney handily won the Illinois primary Tuesday.

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