T-Paw: Tea partiers are great, cannot be 'harnessed' 

Despite the very late-running schedule at CPAC today, I had the opportunity to drop in on a happy hour this evening for Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who had spoken at the event in the morning. He was asked by another reporter about the tea party movement and why there weren't more Tea Partiers at CPAC, and he surmised that probably there were a lot of them.

"I think the tea party movement is great," Pawlenty said. He rejected the idea that they were some kind of marginal force at the edges of the conservative movement. "There was a time when the Reagan people were the outsiders," he said.

Pawlenty was then asked how conservatives could "harness" the tea party movement. "I don't think they want to be harnessed," he said. "It's going to have to be more like a collaboration."

The relationship between the tea parties and CPAC activists is complex and the two groups surely overlap. But you have to keep in mind that most CPAC attendees are longtime conservative movement people who have belonged to various groups and received newsletters and such for years. The tea parties, on the other hand seem to be made up of people previously less involved in politics, who felt compelled to become involved only recently because of President Obama's agenda.

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David Freddoso

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David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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