Michele Bachmann’s flailing campaign and routine gaffes have damaged the reputation of the Tea Party and she should drop out of the presidential race rather than risk further hurting the movement, a prominent Tea Party activist said in a stinging statement.
“It’s time for Michele Bachmann to go,” Ned Ryun, president of activist group American Majority wrote on the site’s blog Thursday, accusing the Minnesota congresswoman of attempting to co-opt and appoint herself leader of the decentralized movement.
“Every day the campaign flounders, it risks hurting the credibility of the movement. If she really is about the tea party, and making it successful, it’s time for the Congresswoman to move on. The Tea Party doesn’t have a spokesperson, and it’s certainly not Michele Bachmann,” Ryan wrote.
His comments quickly raised the ire of the Bachmann campaign, with campaign manager Keith Nahigian accusing him of being a shill for competitor Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“The strength of the Tea Party is all individual’s opinions are valued but the no single leader speaks for it. Mr. Ryun, who supports Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is entitled to his own opinion. And that’s exactly what he is expressing. Michele Bachmann enjoys strong support from Americans across party lines and that certainly includes the Tea Party. She will continue to be a strong advocate for the values and principles reflected by the Tea Party as she works toward a victory in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses as she seeks to win the Republican nomination,” Nahigian said in a statement to ABC News.
Ryun told ABC News that neither he nor American Majority had endorsed Perry or any other candidate.
Bachmann founded the Congressional Tea Party Caucus and was instrumental in publicizing a Tea Party march on Washington and often identifies herself as a Tea Party Republican.
But Ryun accused her of using those ”Tea Party credentials” to rise “from obscurity to a national platform like no other.”
He said he was motivated to write the blog because Bachmann in recent weeks has made her campaign about social rather fiscal issues, but continues to maintain that she is some sort of Tea Party leader.
“The Tea Party has always been about fiscal issues, economic issues, limited government. The Tea Party was never the second coming of the Christian coalition,” he told ABC News.
American Majority works in seven states and Ryun trains many activists. The Tea Party is loose-knit movement and activists make a point to say it has no one leader or spokesman,
Larger organizations affiliated with the movement were not inclined to back Ryun on his call for Bachmann to quit her campaign.
“Ryun is correct, there is no one leader of the movement,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party patriots. ”There are thousands of individual leaders of the movement. Michele Bachmann has always been respectful of saying she’s not trying to lead.”
Martin said Bachmann was called to task by her organization for hosting a “Tea Part Tele-Town Hall.” After calling the campaign, Martin said, Bachmann changed the ads to something along the lines of a “town hall for Tea Party supporters.” The change, Martin said, was reflective of Bachmann’s respect for the movement.
Freedom Works, perhaps the largest of the Tea Party-affiliated groups, was also disinclined to support the Bachmann boycott, and said her gaffes were no worse than those of any other candidate.
“Everybody in the presidential race — Obabma, Cain, Romney — say things they regret, or have made gaffes. There are plenty of examples,” said Freedom Works spokesman Brendan Steinhauser.
“Bachmann,” he said, is “good for the brand and articulates our message quite well.”
Neither Freedom Works nor Tea Party Patriots have endorsed a presidential candidate.