Appearing on CNN's State of the Nation with Candy Crowley on Sunday, Sen.-elect Pat Toomey said he would consider joining a tea party caucus if such a thing were created in the Senate. HuffPost has the video, below is the transcript excerpt from CNN:
CROWLEY: Do you consider yourself a tea party candidate and would you join a tea party caucus?
TOOMEY: You know, I had very broad support from the tea party movement and I appreciate that support. You know, in my experience -- and I met with lots of folks who were active participants and others who were sympathetic to the tea party, in my experience, these are ordinary Americans, mostly working class and middle class Americans who love this country. They're very worried about its future, in particular they're worried about the mountain of debt that's being piled on to their kids' backs.
And so I'm very sympathetic to that concern as well. I welcome their support and I think they can play a very constructive role in keeping the Republican Party committed to the principles that we advocate.
CROWLEY: So would you join a tea party caucus in the Senate?
TOOMEY: I'd consider that. I'd want to hear what that's going to be all about, what that means. But I'd be open to that.
(Later in the interview, Toomey also called President Obama "exactly right" about promoting free trade in Asia during his current overseas trip. Perfect setup for the DSCC here: Maybe Barack Obama should run for president ... IN INDIA.)
But back to the tea parties: In the House, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has created a tea party caucus, but it's unclear whether one would begin in the Senate. Kentucky Sen.-elect Rand Paul has floated the idea, but South Carolina's Jim DeMint -- who has backed many right-wing candidates in this cycle -- said on CNN recently that the conservative caucus, which he currently chairs, is basically the same thing as a tea party caucus so there may be no need.
But the give-and-take represents the larger question of whether Toomey is a tea party candidate. He often is described in news reports as a "tea party candidate" -- along with Paul and Florida's Marco Rubio, which strikes this correspondent as an ill-fitting moniker. The tea parties are a new movement, and Toomey served three terms in the House and ran an insurgent Senate campaign from the right in 2004, when Obama was a state senator and tea parties were still the province of Lewis Carroll. Describing Toomey as a tea partier is a lazy way of saying he challenged an establishment pick (in this case, Arlen Specter) from the right.
That said, Toomey's lower-taxes, slash-spending mindset fits the tea party platform (if one exists) well, and tea party patron Dick Armey called Toomey's '04 run against Specter the "moment of conception" for the tea party movement.
So, ER patrons, does Toomey deserve a cup of tea? The comments section awaits.