- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2014

The leaders of a national tea party group met with the Republican candidates running for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire and are sussing out whether to support former Sen. Scott Brown or one of his rivals ahead of the state’s primary next month.

Sal Russo, co-founder of Tea Party Express, and Andrew Surabian, the group’s political director, met with candidates Thursday and Friday in New Hampshire and are weighing whether to take sides before the state’s Sept. 9 primary.

Taylor Budowich, executive director of Tea Party Express, told The Washington Times that it is possible that his group could back Mr. Brown, considered one of the most moderate Republicans senators in the chamber when he represented Massachusetts.

“Anything is possible,” Mr. Budowich said. “We wouldn’t go up there if we weren’t looking at getting involved.”

The visit coincides with a new WMUR poll that found that Mr. Brown has closed the gap in a potential general election match up with Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The poll found Mr. Brown is running two percentage points behind the Democrat, within the poll’s margin of error.

With the help of Tea Party Express, Mr. Brown emerged as the darling of the grass-roots movement in 2010 when he scored an upset win the fill the Massachusetts seat of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

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But Mr. Brown’s time on Capitol Hill was short-lived. He lost his 2012 re-election race to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

During his time in Washington, he also fell out of favor with some tea partyers, who dubbed him a RINO (Republican in Name Only) for, in their view, surrendering too much ground in the fight for less spending and stopping the growth of government.

Mr. Brown recently moved his official residence to New Hampshire, where he was born and has owned a house for decades, and is now vying for the GOP nomination against former state Sen. Jim Rubens and former U.S. Sen. Robert C. Smith.

Throughout August, he has focused a lot of attention on wooing conservatives by accusing Mrs. Shaheen of supporting “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Mr. Brown’s candidacy is viewed as a win-win for Republicans because he offers them a chance to oust Mrs. Shaheen, and, as the same time, forces Democrats to spend money in the state that they could have saved for more vulnerable candidates.

Asked about the conservative push back against Mr. Brown, Mr. Budowich said that the top priority of Tea Party Express is to flip control of the Senate, knock Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from his leadership post, and stop the agenda of the Obama administration.

If Mr. Brown is deemed to be the best bet to make that happen, Mr. Budowich said that Mr. Brown could get a pre-primary endorsement.

“Our goal in 2014 is to take back the Senate — hands down,” he said. “So are we going to have the perfect Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee candidate in every single race? No, of course not.”

“Every state is a little bit different and they have to represent their constituents and the interests of their state. So the senator from Iowa is going to be a little different from the senator from Texas,” Mr. Budowich said.

“So, I think given that not every candidate is going to be a perfect candidate on every single issue, but we are looking for the candidate that is perfect on 80 percent of the issues,” he said. “That is good enough for us versus a Democrat that is going to be with us zero percent of the time and capitulate every time Harry Reid wants to do something.”

This primary season Tea Party Express backed several winning campaigns, including the Senate primary victories of Ben Sasse in Nebraska and state Sen. Joni Ernst in Iowa. The group also has come out on the losing end of high-profile Senate races in Mississippi and Kansas.

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