FreedomWorks: "We're not in the tank for Romney at all"

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey gestures while speaking about the future of the Republican Party, Monday, March 15, 2010, at the National Press Club in Washington.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Dick Armey, FreedomWorks chairman and former U.S. House Majority Leader.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

FreedomWorks, the organization that helped build the Tea Party movement, is denying a report that it is supporting Mitt Romney for the Republican presidential nomination, telling CBS News the group is "not supporting Romney" right now, nor is it supporting anyone else.

"We're not in the tank for Romney at all," said Jackie Bodnar, press secretary for FreedomWorks, in an interview with Hotsheet. "We have 1.6 million activists around the country and those are the people we take feedback from on whether or not to endorse - and they've specifically told us not to support."

"We're not particularly excited about the way things are playing out" in the Republican presidential race, she added.

Bodnar disputed a recent Washington Times' article's characterization that Romney has the group's "support" or that it believes "the time has come for Republicans to unite around the former Massachusetts governor and focus on defeating President Obama," as the article alleges.

"What we were trying to convey is that if you look at the polls the numbers, they say he's the frontrunner. We're not applauding that. We were just commenting as an outside observer," she said. "We don't really have a natural candidate that we're supporting right now."

According to Bodnar, the organization is focusing its efforts on electing conservative lawmakers in the House and the Senate so that, "regardless of who is in the White House" come 2013, there are members of Congress in place who "can push [the president] as far as possible to the right on their economic policy."

Bodnar said it was "too early to say" whether or not FreedomWorks would support Romney in the event that he wins the Republican presidential nomination.

"At this time I can't really say," she said. "Obviously we're looking for the best alternative to Barack Obama."

But she emphasized that "we certainly are not coming out in support of Romney at this time."

Bodnar also disputed the Times' claim that FreedomWorks has decided to "drop its opposition to [Romney's] candidacy," noting that FreedomWorks has "never really opposed or protested Romney as a presidential candidate."

"We protested his claim that his policies were in line with the Tea Party movement," Bodnar said. "We don't believe he has a consistent record of fiscally consistent policies."

Romney has struggled in the past to secure support from conservatives, although exit polls from Tuesday night's Illinois primary suggest that he may be gaining ground with the Tea Party. According to exit polls, Romney won last night among voters who called themselves members of the Tea Party. Among those who self-identified as "strongly" supporting the Tea Party, he eked out a narrow lead over Santorum, 42 percent to 41 percent. Among those who said they "somewhat" support the Tea Party, however, Romney beat Santorum 52 percent to 31 percent.