Romney urges tea party: Don't run third party candidates
In an interview with the conservative website Newsmax.com, Mitt Romney said he loved the tea party movement -- as long as they don't hurt Republicans.
"I'm really pleased that the silent majority is silent no longer," the former Massachusetts governor said.
But he cautions that if a conservative tea party candidate runs in a general election, that would siphon votes away from a Republican candidate, and "divide and fail is the result. "That would hand over the country to Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and that would be very sad indeed." Romney hopes that tea party candidates will instead run in primaries, and if they lose will back the more conservative candidate in the general election.
Romney also said he backed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) against a conservative primary challenger because the senator had "wisdom and judgment," along with a better chance of winning. Rush Limbaugh called the endorsement "tone deaf" and "suicidal."
Tea party-backed candidates have so far found little success in primaries or special elections.
March 9, 2010; 4:52 PM ET
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