Politics

Sen. Mike Lee: Tea party’s 2012 performance ‘will make 2010 look like a Sunday picnic’

Will Rahn Senior Editor

Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said during a breakfast meeting with reporters on Tuesday that the Tea Party’s accomplishments in next year’s elections “will make 2010 look like a Sunday picnic.”

Lee dismisses polls that indicate support for the movement is on the wane, and remains enthusiastic about its significance — even in the face of those who would diminish its message. (RELATED: GOP trumpets NY victory as referendum on Obama’s handling of Israel, jobs)

Detractors “can say all they want about how people feel about the tea party,” Lee told members of the media. “That may say something about how they feel about a particular organization or people who dress up in three-cornered hats and Captain America outfits and run around on Capitol Hill waving enormous flags, but it says nothing about our movement.”

“I define the tea party as the political phenomenon that occurred and is still occurring,” Lee explained, “as millions of Americans — tens of millions — [come] to the realization that the federal government is too big and too expensive.”

“That’s all it is,” Lee continued. “It’s a name that a lot of people, including the news media and including a lot of people in politics, have come up with just sort of for lack of a better term. They don’t know what to call it. It’s a reaction or it’s a response to a political phenomenon, to what has happened. So when they see people complaining that the federal government is too big and too expensive, and then they see voters responding to that realization by voting in different people, they have to have a name for it. So they call it the tea party. I don’t find the brand offensive.”

“There have been some polls conducted that suggest that that brand or that title, or whatever it is, is something that’s not as popular as perhaps it once was, or as they expected it to be,” he added. “I don’t really care what those polls say because, first of all, I think many of those polls are engineered by people who wanted to reach precisely that conclusion and who wanted to try to draw momentum away from this movement, away from this political phenomenon. I don’t really care because it doesn’t matter because you can tarnish that name all you want, it’s not going to change the fact the people understand the federal government’s too big and too expensive.”

Lee said he is not “wedded to the [tea party] brand” so much as to its small government principles. “There are a few organizations that have adopted the title or worked into their organizational name but, at the end of the day, the tea party movement consists of a set of principles that reflect changing sentiments among the American people. And if you poll based on those sentiments you’ll see that it’s never been stronger, you’ll see that it’s growing.”

A CNN poll conducted in July showed that 66 percent of Americans support the “Cut, Cap and Balance” approach and 74 percent support a balanced budget amendment. Sen. Lee introduced the “Cut, Cap and Balance Act” in June.

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