Romney (Jae C. Hong/AP)When NBC's Brian Williams asked former Gov. Mitt Romney at the most recent Republican presidential debate if he considers himself "a member of the tea party," it may have been the toughest question of the night.
As anyone who aligns himself with the small-government movement will tell you, the question was overly simplistic--the tea party is more of an intellectual concept than an actual centralized organization--but Williams' question clearly struck a nerve. It was one of the only questions during the debate that Romney hesitated before answering, and his meandering response took far more time and effort than what some of his contenders would have expended in the same exchange. Herman Cain, for instance, probably would have whistled by the query and just said, "Yes."
"I believe in a lot of what the tea party believes in," Romney said. "The tea party believes that government's too big, taxing too much, and that we ought to get to the work of getting Americans to work. So I put together a plan with a whole series of points of how we can get America's economy going again. Tea party people like that. So if the tea party is for keeping government small and spending down, and helping us create jobs, then, hey, I'm for the tea party."
Interestingly, that's about the same response that tea party-aligned lawmakers provided when I asked if they thought Romney espoused the principles of the movement. All basically gave the same answer: To paraphrase a popular Facebook characterization of a user's relationship status, it's complicated.Read More »from Romney a tea partier? It’s complicated