Pam Jones of West Chester answers questions before the West Chester Tea Party Butler County Clerk of Court and Commissioner Candidate Forum night at Lakota West Freshman High School Thursday February 9, 2012 in Liberty Township. The Enquirer/ Joseph Fuqua II
Howard Wilkinson reports:
Two years ago, the tea party movement in Ohio was a force to be reckoned with, an army of thousands of volunteers who went out and worked to turn Democrats out of Congress and fill the statehouse with conservative Republicans.
Today, it is a deeply divided movement.
With a primary election in Ohio where they could influence the Republicans’ choice of a nominee to defeat the Democratic president whose policies they universally deplore, they are an uncertain block of voters, with no one candidate to back who supports their values.
“I think our people are all over the map,’’ said Mike Wilson of Springdale, who, three years ago, founded the Cincinnati Tea Party and is running this year for the Ohio House.
“We haven’t been tremendously impactful in the primaries so far, and it is hard to imagine that we will be in Ohio,’’ said Wilson. “Tea party people aren’t getting around one candidate.”
It could be that the tea party activists who wielded such influence two years ago could turn their attention this year to Ohio’s U.S. Senate race instead of the presidential contest.
Wilson and other tea party activists in the area say that if the Republicans nominate a candidate who doesn’t excite them – Mitt Romney, for example, who is seen as a moderate by many of them – they could end up spending more energy trying to elect Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel – the front-runner for the GOP Senate nomination – over Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
“I think you will see tea party folks gravitate toward Mandel,’’ said Chris Littleton, a co-founder of the Cincinnati Tea Party and the Ohio Liberty Council, an umbrella group for tea party organizations. “That is a race that could get people excited. And then they vote for Romney or whoever along the way.”
A Mandel vs. Brown race, Wilson said, “might get people excited. Josh has a lot of support among tea party people. He’s got them more excited than any of the presidential candidates at this point.”
There is some new evidence that tea party voters may be coalescing around former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
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