WASHINGTON – Even anti-government icon Ron Paul can’t escape the conservative “Tea Party” fervor stretching across the county.
Paul, the Gulf Coast congressman whose 2008 presidential run excited libertarians nationwide, even though he didn’t get much traction overall, is considered by many to be the “father of the Tea Parties.” But he has three opponents in the March Republican primary – more than he has faced in his past six primary campaigns combined.
All three have ties to the anti-tax Tea Party movement. And while Paul remains the odds-on favorite to win re-election in his district, the crowded primary highlights the potential conflict between Tea Party activists and a GOP hoping to ride their wave to electoral success this fall.
“The Tea Parties have awakened a lot of everyday people here and across America,” said Tim Graney, one of Paul’s opponents. “And Ron Paul is worried about getting swept up in the anti-incumbent wave as if he is some exception.”
Not in lockstep
It is hard to know where Paul fits into the Tea Party landscape. Paul supporters say he launched the movement in 2007 when he raised $6 million in a one-day, Web-based fundraiser on the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. His call for limited government and ending the Federal Reserve also resonates loudly in the Tea Party movement.
“Dr. Paul is proud to play a small role in getting this phenomenon going,” said his campaign spokesman, Jesse Benton.