By STEVE PEOPLES
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – Just a year ago,Â tea partyÂ activists came roaring out of the congressional elections eager to shape the looming race for the White House.
Things have not gone as planned.
Turned off byÂ Mitt Romney’sÂ style and evolution on several important issues, they have bounced from one candidate to another in hopes of finding a formidable alternative to the former Massachusetts governor to focus their enthusiasm.
After a series of disappointmentsâ€”Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and businessman Herman Cain among themâ€”the anti-establishment movement has settled, for now, on a favorite: formerÂ House Speaker Newt Gingrich,Â even though he has spent more than three decades inWashington politics.
With theÂ Iowa caucusesÂ on Jan. 3 andÂ tea partyÂ support fractured at best, some activists worry that the passion that defined the movement 13 months ago may become lost in the selection of the next president.
Infighting among conservative groups, a growing sense of pragmatism, and glaring weaknesses among the candidates have forced someÂ tea partyÂ leaders to acknowledge their limits and shift their attention to Congress.
“I wish that we had coalesced behind one candidate earlier on. It’s not because of theÂ tea partyÂ movement, it’s because there hasn’t been that candidate out there so far that has stirred the passionâ€”the fire in the belly,” said Amy Kremer, president of theÂ Tea PartyÂ Express. “Everybody wants to focus on presidential politics. I think we need to be focused on the Senate. That’s where we really, really need to be engaged.”
Lacking a presidential contender to rally behind, Kremer’s organization and others have begun eyeing congressional elections that could shift the balance of power onÂ Capitol HillÂ next fall regardless of the presidential race winner.
They’ve already helped shape the debate over federal spending, pushing the House to pass a balanced budget amendment while rejecting Democrats’ effort to raise new revenues to help close the federal deficit.
“We’ve changed the discussion on Capitol Hill and we’ve let the politicians know we get the game they’re playing,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of theÂ Tea PartyÂ Patriots. “We always said last year that after the November election that our work was just beginning.”
Despite fractures within the conservative movement, the presidential campaigns are courtingÂ tea partyleaders, recognizing the potential political muscle of a grassroots movement that helped deliver the House to Republicans in November 2010.
Romney and Gingrich have met privately with Kremer, although the two men generally have followed different strategies in trying to capture theÂ tea partyÂ vote.
Since his 2008 presidential bid, Romney has invested time and money in building relationships with Republican leaders inside and outside theÂ tea partyÂ movement.
That investment helped produce endorsements from conservative favorites includingÂ South CarolinaÂ Gov. Nikki Haley, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and unsuccessful Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9RN477O0&show_article=1
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