Mitt Romney has reversed his decision last week to skip a Tea Party-ish forum hosted by conservative Sen. Jim DeMint. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin reports that Romney will show up at the South Carolina event after all, and his staff says the move was due to a scheduling problem. And the campaign denies the change is a reaction to Rick Perry's movement to the top of national polls.
Last week, The Washington Post's Nia-Malika Henderson reported that Romney would skip the event -- and that it would be seen as a "snub." Tea Party favorite DeMint endorsed Romney in 2008, "but has yet to give him anything other than tepid support more recently," Henderson wrote, even as Romney signed DeMint's "Cut, Cap, and Balance" pledge to lower the debt.
FreedomWorks spokeswoman Jacqueline Bodnar complained to The Daily Caller's Alex Pappas Monday, "To my knowledge, Mitt Romney has never requested to participate in one of our tea party events or rallies." Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Mark Meckler said he'd never seen Romney at Tea Party rallies either.
Romney has been criticized by Republicans for having a strategy that plays it too safe instead of engaging Perry, the Republican 2012 candidate with the most Tea Party support right now. This shows he might be rethinking that strategy, The Hill's Cameron Joseph writes. Romney's reversal on DeMint's forum "indicates that his strategy has shifted from a front-runner's plan of picking and choosing events and staying above the fray to a more confrontational one, where he will meet Perry toe-to-toe," Joseph says. The Washington Post's Aaron Blake agrees: "So, all in one day, Romney hits "career politicians" and announces he will attend Tea Party Express and DeMint events. Perry effect." So does The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman: "Looks like Gov. Romney has decided now is the time to engage!"