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Tea Party Express takes a victory lap, makes endorsements

How bothered was the Tea Party Express by Ken Vogel's publication of its founding memo, revealing how Republican strategists put the organization together to capitalize on the movement? Last night they e-mailed supporters a bubbly message, telling them to read the memo.

"You see the Tea Party Express wasn't an accident," wrote TPE's Joe Wierzbicki. "It was a carefully considered and well-planned project that was designed to engage local tea party groups all across the country to join together to make a difference and help take our country back -- while still allowing those local groups to retain their independence and autonomy. And it's been a phenomenal success that has infuriated the Left and many within the media as well."

This morning the group held an event at the National Press Club, revving up for a rally in downtown Washington. The room was packed with supporters who applauded every word from TPE's Mark Williams and Sal Russo, the talk radio show host and GOP strategist who've led the group and laughed off charges of "hijacking" the movement. Who cared about the critics? They were speaking into CNN cameras as reporters scrambled to report on their tour.

As they and TPE's Amy Kremer -- deposed from Tea Party Patriots last year when she joined the group -- spoke, nearly every political development of the past year was linked to the efforts of the TPE. Reporters were shown the ad they ran against Scott Brown; Williams then chided the press for reporting on Brown's decision to stay in Washington yesterday, instead of attending a TPE event, as some sort of snub of tea parties. And they were shown the ad that TPE ran in Rep. Bart Stupak's (D-Mich.) district after a history lesson from Williams.

"Originally," he said, "we were going to congratulate him for standing firm on principle against Obamacare." After Stupak's final vote for the bill, the TPE directed its efforts at the district. "Darn if it didn't work!" said Williams. But he quickly reversed himself before the praise for his own group got too thick. "We don't take credit for pushing him over the edge. The folks in Michigan have been working very hard to defeat Bart Stupak."

It was left to Russo to read a lengthy list of the TPE's new endorsements and Democratic targets, interrupted briefly by a video message of support from Florida's Marco Rubio ("You're on the front lines!"). The targets included Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and a batch of members of the House, including Rep. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.), Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.), Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.). "We've added those five to the Bart Stupak list," said Russo, expressing hope that they'd choose to retire. And he singled out the "obnoxious" Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) as additional targets -- the mention of Grayson's name inspired very loud applause.

Few of the TPE's endorsements were surprising -- Russo endorsed Kentucky insurgent Senate candidate Rand Paul, then issued his support of ultra-safe Republicans Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). The lone surprise: an endorsement for Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), a freshman (and former Republican) who's bucked Democrats on some key legislation. That got applause, if not as much as the event's star, newly endorsed Nevada Senate candidate Sharon Angle.

"I feel a little lonely today," said Angle. "I usually bring Smith & Wesson along."

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By David Weigel  |  April 15, 2010; 10:28 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Election , Tea Party  | Tags: Joe Wierzbicki, Mark Williams, National Press Club, Politics, Republican, Talk radio, Tea Party Express, United States  
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