Infighting among conservative groups, a growing sense of pragmatism, and glaring weaknesses among the candidates have forced some tea party leaders to acknowledge their limits and shift their attention to Congress.
"I wish that we had coalesced behind one candidate earlier on. It's not because of the tea party movement, it's because there hasn't been that candidate out there so far that has stirred the passion - the fire in the belly," said Amy Kremer, president of the Tea Party Express. "Everybody wants to focus on presidential politics. I think we need to be focused on the Senate. That's where we really, really need to be engaged."
Lacking a presidential contender to rally behind, Kremer's organization and others have begun eyeing congressional elections that could shift the balance of power on Capitol Hill next fall regardless of the presidential race winner.
That doesn't mean that the Republican presidential candidates are not courting the Tea Party. In fact,a group of them eagerly participated in a Sunday night teleconference.
Other tea party groups, despite a desire to play prominently in the White House contest, are left to focus on policy debates in Congress.
In the absence of a current presidential candidate, Politico reports that the Tea Party might be pining for a certain former governor of Alaska.
Predicting that a good slice of the country’s conservatives will not make up their minds until they are standing in front of the ballot box, Kremer singled out the former Alaska governor as “the only person out there right now that can truly excite the base.”
“Certainly some candidates bring their own energy and excitement. Michele Bachmann had it early on when she won the [Iowa] straw poll, and then when Perry got in,” she said. “But there’s no one that is electrifying as Sarah Palin.”
Kremer is the leader of one of many tea party groups. But while she is far from being the authoritative voice of the movement, she suggested a sense of ambivalence and frustration is widespread among conservatives.Then again, as this editorial in the Augusta Chronicle suggests, any criticism of the Tea Party might be an effort to attempt to undermine the strength it does have.