In the wake of his Illinois primary win, everything seems to be coming up roses for Mitt Romney. Today he's earned the deemed-by-enough-people-to-be-important-so-whatever-let's-just-say-it-is endorsement of Jeb Bush. Bush's move is widely expected to presage another flood of money and endorsements flowing in Romney's direction.
And in somewhat less exciting news, it seems that FreedomWorks, the organization that worked the hardest to absorb the insurgent Tea Party movement into the sticky mass of the GOP establishment, has decided that it no longer totally hates the former Massachusetts governor.
Per Ralph Z. Hallow, at the Washington Times:
The organization that ignited the tea party as a national mass movement gave Mitt Romney perhaps his biggest victory yet, deciding to drop its opposition to his candidacy, a top executive in the group told The Washington Times.
FreedomWorks, which organized the Sept. 12, 2009, mass demonstration on the Mall, says that while it will not give an explicit endorsement, the time has come for Republicans to unite around the former Massachusetts governor and focus on defeating President Obama.
“It is a statistical fact that the numbers favor Mitt Romney,” FreedomWorks Vice President Russ Walker told The Times on Tuesday. “We are dedicated to defeating Obama and electing a conservative Senate that will help Romney repeal Obamacare and address the nation’s economic and spending challenges.”
Hey, do you guys remember how vigorously FreedomWorks used to oppose Romney? In all likelihood, you don't. To do so, you'd have to cast your mind all the way back to May of last year, which was when the folks at FreedomWorks were talking a good game about dogging Romney's hopes and ambitions. As HuffPost's Jon Ward reported at the time:
A top goal of the nation’s most influential national Tea Party group is to stop Mitt Romney from winning the Republican nomination for president.
Interviews with top officials at FreedomWorks, a Washington-based organizing hub for Tea Party activists around the country, revealed that much of their thinking about the 2012 election revolves around derailing the former Massachusetts governor.
“Romney has a record and we don’t really like it that much,” said Adam Brandon, the group’s communications director.
Yes, at one point, "stopping Romney" was FreedomWorks' "top goal," embittered as the group was by his lack of authenticity and "the health care thing." That's what FreedomWorks' grassroots liaison Brendan Steinhauser called Mitt Romney's design and implementation of Commonwealth Care in Massachusetts, which in 2008 was an accomplishment enthusiastically embraced by the GOP establishment and which got Romney invited to the "go ahead and run for president, why not?" party in the first place.
But for all its initial boldness, FreedomWorks' hot talk about stopping Romney never really went anywhere. Of course, the group was hardly alone in this. For all of the lack of enthusiasm for Romney as a 2012 standardbearer, FreedomWorks' "opposition" to his candidacy basically amounted to people sitting around in a fuss, wishing and hoping that someone could be "pretty please" cajoled into doing something about it. Won't someone jump into the race and try to be the dream candidate to end Romney's candidacy? Well, sure! But the "someones" who tried to do so eventually turned out to be Rick Perry.
FreedomWorks' major contribution to "stopping Romney" was a protest it organized in August against Romney's appearance at a Tea Party Express event in Concord, N.H. I have no idea why anyone at FreedomWorks thought that impeding an event staged by the very people they claimed to support was a good idea. One would imagine that the self-described Tea Partiers were more than capable of evaluating Romney for themselves, but as Steinhauser declared at the time, "We have to defend our brand against poseurs." There was a certain amount of irony in that statement, that largely went unremarked upon at the time. But let's note it now!
By the end of September, FreedomWorks had basically given up on the whole "stopping Romney" thing. The group's chairman and CEO Matt Kibbe told Ward at the time that "Romney has an opportunity to rehabilitate himself," and, countering all of that spring's talk about stopping Romney as a matter of purist principle, went on to say, "What Tea Partiers are looking for is someone that stands for something, but also someone that shows the political skills to win. It's not enough to be right and lose. The goal here is to win the presidency." Yes, and I imagine that a secondary goal is to have access to that president, once the presidency is won.
But there you have it, folks. Like so much of the lumpen opposition to Romney, FreedomWorks' antagonism has fizzled into generic anomie and bonhomie and acceptance. It's possible that beardy-weirdie Alaska also-ran Joe Miller is still plying his trade in the "Stop Romney" arts, but I can't be bothered to check.
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