Romney to party with the tea partiers

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Mitt Romney is going to party with the tea partiers.

The GOP presidential candidate will join the Tea Party Express for an event in New Hampshire over Labor Day weekend, the first tea party rally he’s ever attended that has been hosted by a national organization, according to organizers.

The news comes after The Daily Caller reported Monday that organizers with the country’s largest tea party groups said they don’t recall Romney ever participating or asking to participate in any of their events since the movement began. (RELATED: Mitt Romney keeps distance from tea party groups)

“It’s true,” Levi Russell, a spokesman for the Tea Party Express, told TheDC.

Romney’s participation was first reported by CNN. TheDC was told that Romney will join the organization Sunday night in Concord, New Hampshire.

The Romney campaign, Russell said, reached out to them about joining the group’s “Reclaiming America” bus tour, which is stopping in cities across the country leading up until the CNN/Tea Party Express debate in September.

The Tea Party Express is also trying to get all other candidates to join. In a message on the organization’s Twitter account, the group wrote: “All POTUS candidates have open invitation to TPX rallies. We have Bachmann, Romney, Gary Johnson…where is Paul, Cain, Perry, Gingrich etc?”

And in another sign that Romney is reaching out to tea party activists, his campaign said Tuesday that he will now appear at a candidate forum hosted by South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, despite having previously declined the invitation.

Despite Romney’s effort to mend fences with tea party activists, one group plans to protest his appearance at the weekend event in New Hampshire.

FreedomWorks, the Washington, D.C.-based organization led by former House leader Dick Armey, announced Wednesday that they are organizing a counter rally with other local activists at the same time as Romney’s speech, suggesting he’s just a poseur wanting to use the tea party now that it could help him.

“One of the great successes of the decentralized tea party movement has been its ability to self-police,” the group’s president, Matt Kibbe said. “If every political opportunist claiming to be a tea partier is accepted unconditionally, then the tea party brand loses all meaning. Our grassroots activists will be in New Hampshire on Sunday to defend the tea party ideas of small government and fiscal responsibility, and to remind Mitt Romney that when it comes to policy, actions speak louder than words.”

In a release Wednesday, Russell of Tea Party Express responded to FreedomWorks, saying, “It’s just silly to protest a tea party where Governor Romney is speaking.”

“We view this move by FreedomWorks at best as a misguided press stunt, and are disappointed at the disingenuous approach taken after we have made every effort to be inclusive and accommodating on our national bus tour,” he said.

FreedomWorks, the group that helped organize events like the 9/12 March on Washington in 2009 and annual “tax day” rallies, told TheDC earlier this week that Romney has never made an effort to join tea party events.

“To my knowledge, Mitt Romney has never requested to participate in one of our tea party events or rallies,” said Jacqueline Bodnar, a spokeswoman at FreedomWorks.

Another national figure in the movement, Mark Meckler, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, also said Romney “certainly never reached out to our organization, not that I’m aware of.”

And before Romney’s participation in the Tea Party Express rally was announced, a strategist for the group said, “In the past, we have never had participation from Mitt Romney, and I don’t know that he has ever reached out to us until more recently.”