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Can the tea parties claim victory over Stupak?

He might not have planned it that way, but the timing of Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) retirement announcement will send it into the annals of tea party history. Local groups and the national Tea Party Express had battered Stupak all week, holding rallies and running an estimated $250,000 of TV ads against the congressman.

I contacted Tea Party Express, and haven't got a reaction yet -- its leadership is based in Sacramento, where this news broke before the sun came up -- but yesterday, the group was happily taking credit for the retirement rumors. From their message to supporters:

Over the past 24-hours news outlets have scrambled to follow up on reports that disgraced Congressman Bart Stupak may be considering resigning or retiring from his congressional seat.

Why? Because of the fallout he is facing from groups like ours at the Tea Party Express -- and our announcement of a $250,000 campaign to "Defeat Bart Stupak."

This is a major coup for the Tea Party Express, which isn't beloved by some tea party groups, but which has been brutally effective in winning media attention and focusing the movement on specific political targets. Certainly the tea parties will cite this as another example, after NY-23 and after Massachusetts, of their fast-moving activism making the difference while party committees focused elsewhere.

UPDATE: The Tea Party Express has responded -- the statement from political director Brian Shroyer is below the fold.

"The surprising announcement that Congressman Bart Stupak is abandoning his campaign for re-election shows the power of the tea party movement. Stupak was not longer able to hide his betrayal of conservative principles because the tea party movement was determined to educate the voters in his district of his vote of betrayal for Obamacare.

During the past few weeks the Tea Party Expresss put together a formidable campaign to defeat Bart Stupak. Two days ago we began a $250,000 TV and radio ad blitz. For weeks we've been organizing tea party rallies specifically targeting Stupak for defeat.

"Last night in Ironwood, MI some 400+ people turned out for a rally against Stupak, which is almost 10% of the city's population. We are currently en route to Escanaba, MI where a giant rally is planned.

"People in this district are furious with Bart Stupak. He betrayed his constituents and his own principles. Those who helped him win electoral victories of more than 60% in the past were now working to defeat him.

"There has not been a similar national push in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Michigan as is currently underway by the Tea Party Express. This effort is historic, and it has been possible because of the disgust voters have towards Stupak's betrayal of those he was supposed to represent.

"Just as Scott Brown was propelled to vicoty in the U.S. Senate thanks to the tea party movement, now Bart Stupak appears to have succumbed to the movement's strength as well.

"Our movement is real - it is not Astroturf, and we're not going away. November 2010, here we come!"

By David Weigel  |  April 9, 2010; 9:05 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Health Care , Tea Party  
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