RNC chairman candidates reach out to Tea Party during Daily Caller-sponsored debate

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Though they didn’t really need to in order to get elected, Republican National Committee chair candidates each offered their own choice words of praise for the Tea Party movement in Monday’s debate hosted by The Daily Caller and Americans for Tax Reform.

Frontrunner Reince Priebus said the GOP’s biggest failure in the past 10 years was “not doing what we say we’re going to do,” a pitch to Tea Partiers and a plea to maintain the conservative values of the Republican Party.

To the same question about where the GOP went wrong over the past decade, candidate Saul Anuzis said that elected GOP officials lost their way and stopped voting like Republicans. “This is a center right nation, this is a country that believes in our conservative principles,” Anuzis said. “When we act and vote like Republicans, we win. When we act and vote like Democrats, we lose.”

Candidate Ann Wagner, who has pledged to give the Tea Party movement a “seat at the table,” said it’s the people that decide who gets into power and who loses it. One of the biggest failures of the GOP, she said, has been “too much spending, and growth, and debt…We have got to reign in spending.”

Candidate Maria Cino said the Tea Party movement will keep Republicans on task. “If we’ve learned anything from our friends at the Tea Party, it’s staying on message,” Cino said. “We’ve got a second life line here, and we have to use it.”

Current RNC Chairman Michael Steele said the GOP needs to reconnect with the people.

“We stopped talking to people. We stopped trying to connect directly to people,” Steele said. “We stopped expanding and reaching. We are the party of Lincoln. Part of our charge is to go out and grab as many of those folks as we can and make them a part of this experience.”

Tea Party Express spokesperson Amy Kremer told TheDC that the RNC chair candidates’ appeals to the grassroots movement are a testament to the movement’s success in framing the national debate.

“It doesn’t surprise me or shock me one bit,” Kremer said. “It’s the same thing that happened during the midterm elections when everybody wants to align themselves with the Tea Party movement because that’s the hot topic and it’s a conservative wave for the moment. These people wanting to attach themselves to the Tea Party movement is a testament to the strength of the movement.”

FreedomWorks’ director of federal and state campaigns, Brendan Steinhauser, agrees with Kremer in that RNC chair candidates tying themselves to the Tea Party movement is a sign of the strength of grassroots conservatives.

“It’s proof that we’ve made an impact in the party and that these guys know that the future direction of the party is where we’re trying to shift it,” Steinhauser told TheDC. “Everyone from Michael Steele, to all these guys listed here, have quotes. They’re all saying the right things, we hope they’re going to the right thing. Obviously, the chairman has less of a policy job than members of Congress, but I think this is a strong signal of where they are and where they need to be to get the support of the Republican Party.”