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February 3rd, 2010
09:31 PM ET

Welcome to the Tea Party: To hug or not to hug?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Governor Charlie Crist is hugged by President Obama at a town hall meeting February 10, 2009 in Fort Myers, Florida."]

By Jim Acosta, CNN

To hug or not to hug?

That's the question facing Florida's Republican voters. The answer could have national implications for the Tea Party movement.

In the white-hot GOP primary battle between Governor Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio, the hug is the big issue.

In case you haven't heard – last year, the governor briefly hugged President Obama at a stimulus town hall meeting in Florida. Tea Party activists in the state immediately cried foul and began moving in droves to Rubio in the race.

Does Crist regret the hug? Does he still defend his support of the stimulus? Yes. And yes. To the governor, it's all about civility in politics. Tea partiers or no tea partiers.

Would Rubio hug Obama? Watch our second part of "Welcome to the Tea Party" – "Florida showdown," Thursday on American Morning.

Filed under: Politics • Welcome to the Tea Party
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Raymond

    The Tea Party charged its members $550 for registration to the convention. How can they claim to be a grassroots movement when the majority of their members are not able to attend their convention? MS Palin is charging $150.000 to speak at the convention. Wake-up folks, the party are no more than a front for extremist, right-wing Republicans who are angry about the election results. Who the hell else would pay $550, plus hotel , traveling, and dining cost to go and hear a bunch of angry Republican talking about taking their country back?

    February 5, 2010 at 6:21 am |
  2. Mark

    Ok, CNN is a pro-Obama in which they hide the truth and now,it;s a wishy washy kind of interview,Why ? It is known to be that the democrats want's the Tea Party to go away,NOPE can't do that. So,they made a plan to take a different road here as this here.Not going to work CNN-DEMOCRATS or RINOS !!!

    We are here cause we are sick of the government taking,taking and taking while they filll their pockets up with tons of money,It don't matter if a democrat-republicans or independent nasty politians..It's that we want then out of our lives and stop taking from us because of what they need or want...We say no to Government run health care.look at GM,How did that go down,huh ? well so many family owner businesses were stolen from our government and they had thier bussiness in their family over 75 years for the most.They got nothing but a 30 day to get out.How can a government steal their business? Now,it's a coming to your health care.Better read that bill.And really people..yell for the bill they have now that they hide drafts on, Yell to have the bill read on C-SPAN and all of senate and congressmen and women evn Pelosi -Reid and Obama right there front and center so we the people can see thier faces as the full bill is read on C-SPAN for all americans to see.Maybe not,I bet again Obama -Pelosi and Reid will say no,no trust us,remember we were to watch the whole thing and BOOM- Obama blocked C-SPAM and the american people out ! They are dirty and yes they all should be held acountable for it !



    February 4, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  3. JB

    If these Tea Parties would have started a couple of years ago I would believe their agenda, but nothing was said when Bush spent like a drunken Sailor.

    February 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  4. Penny

    Keep thinking that the tea party is link to the republicans,we are not ! we have republicans-democrats and independents who are sick of Washington ! And now the bigger one here is that the democrats are running scared so,they have to come up with something here and fast.What way to do this is to continue saying nasty remarks.We are not in any party ! What we are in is to stop the control of Pelosi-Reid and Obama ! As well as the government .

    I don't want to become depended on the government.that's the first and last step you will lose your freedom..That's what they want.How dare they take my money and throw it anyway they want to give to illegals for health care.... Chit 98 % have insurance and the other are illegals and the rest are what the government gives them with those like me work are ass off to pay for our own.Support you dam self ! called get a job..oh wait,there are none at this point, why ? The plan was in for years to do this.Take down banks and oh but Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac-AIG get's a bailout ,government banks.don't you see what they are doing and who was and still in congress let this happen by giving and not stopping Fannie Mae and Freddi Mac leading pratice..Waiting ...... still waiting...... ok,it was and is the democrats in congress.. Go check it out
    You tube on the senate floor 2004-2006 even in Clintons years 93

    Fannie mae and congress democrats, just type that in and see for your selves..Maxine Waters=Barney Frank-all of congress democrats and oh, Michele , Obama the ceo of Fannie Mae "BUSTED " you all fall for the "It's Bushes Fault " nope not opn this one.Democrats held congress and buck and buck republicans and Bush to make sure their leading to destory our country in the works... Wake up america !

    February 4, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  5. James

    Let’s be honest here people; the repubs, the tea party, and the rest of the right wing nuts all have one simple issue with this president that they’ve not had with any other president, and that’s the color of his skin. Every possible change this president tries to make for the betterment of this country is met with not only politically-motivated opposition, but it’s also met with a hidden racially motivated opposition as well. Honestly, no one wants to talk about this, thus it allows the tension and energy within these right wing nuts to grow at an alarming rate. If some of these repubs are embarrassed a few times about being in the closet racist, thing my start to change. But again, these repubs, tea parties, and right wing nuts really don’t want this black man to go down in history as the person who changed America for the better. Look what Dr. King did for the equality of black in his day. Do you think white America want to see another black man change this country again? My question was where were all these right wingers and tea party freaks when Bush was tearing down this country at an alarming rate? In eight years he took this great country from a surplus to the brink of another depression telling lie after lie after lie… yet you call Obama and his fellow dems liars… go figure! Oh if I forgot to mention, and I’m a white male southern conservative who didn’t vote for Obama, but now I with I really did. Wake up America and let’s just all get along.

    February 4, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  6. Jeanette Marie

    The problem with the tea-party and conservative thinking, while it allows you to be principled it rarely addresses larger realities.

    February 4, 2010 at 9:39 am |
  7. Ralph Patch

    Steve O. I think you are absolutely correct.

    February 4, 2010 at 9:03 am |
  8. Bill in Aspen, CO

    Has Moody's weighed in on the side of the Tea Party Movement by suggesting it (Moody's) will lower the rating of the U.S. if the U.S. doesn't stop increasing the national debt?

    February 4, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  9. Bill

    The Tea Party has serious anger issues. They're always mad as hell amd screaming, but about what? Just a bunch of peaple that fear differences, changing times and the boggyman. Time for all of the party to understand that the age of controling with fear and little education, the core of the party, has past. Just F.Y.I.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  10. NomadSoCal

    The business illiterate congress of the US better look at the size of the size of the entitlements for government employees that will bury anything good that Obama or anyone else does in the near term. By the time it all plays out we could all be living in dirt yard neighborhoods like Tijuana, Mexicali, & Juarez. (I personally believe a private sector employee is twice as productive as a gov't employee, makes 2/3rds the pay with no entitlements......any good business person would subcontract as mush work as possible. Oh yeah but there goes their power.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:57 am |
  11. Mitch Dworkin - Dallas, Texas


    This is an excellent article and a very important topic to talk about. Here is the bottom line about why most tea party endorsed Republican primary candidates will probably win and why Charlie Crist will more than likely lose to Marco Rubio short of Rubio having a big scandal to the degree of Gov. Mark Sanford or Sen. John Ensign:

    This is a non-Presidential election year where the primary vote is at its lowest turnout. Unfortunately it is mainly the ideological party activists such as the tea party express who will always vote in these kind of primaries compared to average mainstream Republicans who cannot always be counted on to show up to vote in a non-Presidential election year primary.

    A Republican primary candidate showing ANY kind of civility is committing "a mortal sin" to tea party express activists because they agree with Rush Limbaugh who openly repudiates and despises any form of serious bipartisanship calling it compromising your principles.

    Civility in politics would triumph in a general election but definitely not in a low turnout primary when it is mostly ideological party activists who do most of the voting. Charlie Crist would easily beat Marco Rubio in a statewide general election but he has virtually no chance of winning in a low turnout Republican primary against Rubio.

    The longer a primary goes, the stronger that a tea party endorsed candidate becomes because they will get much more name recognition from talk radio and they will also raise a lot of money.

    Short of a huge game changing event happening, Charlie Crist will lose to Marco Rubio in Florida and Kay Bailey Hutchison will lose to tea party candidate Rick Perry in the Texas Governor primary.

    The danger is that if Republicans win a lot of seats in the November general election, your average voter who votes Republican will not know the difference between a mainstream Republican like Charlie Crist and a Rush Limbaugh minded ideologue Republican like Marco Rubio. If too many tea party express Republican candidates win their primaries and then go on to win their general elections, then partisanship will be worse than anyone has ever seen it.

    A non-tea party candidate's best possible chance of winning is to try and form some kind of a "Democrats and Independents for Crist" type of organization from behind the scenes which is separate and apart from the campaign. The premise of joining it is that most Democrats and Independents do not like heavily partisan tea party heroes like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and they would rather see Crist win to stop a tea party ideologue from winning. Someone like Charlie Crist has to try and expand the amount of primary voters as much as they can and as soon as they can!

    It is my hope that losing mainstream Republican primary candidates will either run as third party candidates or refuse to endorse the winning tea party candidate in an effort to try and divide the Republican vote to stop tea party ideologues from winning and getting in power.

    Electing any tea party endorsed candidate is about the same thing as electing someone who thinks exactly like Rush Limbaugh, Jim DeMint, and Michele Bachmann (who are all heroes to the tea party express movement). This is a topic that I specialize in as a professional political analyst so I know this it is true!

    Mitch Dworkin
    Dallas, Texas

    February 4, 2010 at 8:53 am |
  12. John - Pa

    Jackie – Yeah you sure sound independent. Picking on the Republicans for "any little thing they do"???? Are you kidding me?
    Tea Party leader Palin an independent.????
    You sound like a wolf in sheeps clothing. Scary and dangerous.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:53 am |
  13. John Wright

    An interesting perspective re the Tea Party from a Canadian: The introduction of a 3rd viable party into American politcs will fracture and divide political strength and result in even more partisan politics probably to the detriment of the Republicans because it is splitting their Party. It happened in Canada where we now have 5 political parties. It's hard to get the business of a country done with so much partisan politics.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:50 am |
  14. PaPa John

    Tea Party is here to stay and hopefully will get rid of the socialist in the Whitehouse, CNN and the Czars. I voted for Obama.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  15. Terry Doherty

    I joined the Tea Party as a avenue to express my anger in the direction the administration was going. I did not join to express the views of one political party vew vs the other. I no longer can support the Tea party movement due to it's GOP affiliation. The Tea Party is now going to have a political agenda. SORRY I Cant support the GOP EITHER. The GOP & DEM's are missing the point?

    February 4, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  16. John - Pa

    America could use a totally independent politcal party that equally takes Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals to task for their shameful actions in politics and policy. Unfortuneately when you list Palin as a leader, then you just have a splinter on the Republican, conservative movement. Not a new movement just another shameful tactic. Disassociate yourself from any current politician and take every issue at face value without politics and I'd be a tea party to that.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  17. Sarah K.

    I'll be honest. When I look at the "Tea Party" all I see are a bunch of angry, racist, White people. I wish CNN wouldn't give these folks legitimacy they do not deserve. If they were TRULY angry at big government and deficit spending then where was all of this venom and vitriol during the Bush years? I used to be an anti-big government Republican. Then I realized Republicans are NOT small government. If I'm going to have a big government I'd rather it be one that is spending its money and energy working to help the American people, not TRULY taking away citizens rights (sorry Tea Party folks – but a "right" to privately funded health care doesn't really exist – but a right against things like due process and warrantless wire taps does in fact exist in our constitution), and spending money on wars.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  18. Steve O

    As a Republican, I'm embarrassed by the tea party movement. It is obviously extreme partisanship – they waited until Obama was elected and started protesting before he even had a chance to make a difference. The movement is worsening our economic problems by causing deeper divisioin.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  19. Steven

    The republican party is a divided party split between moderates, conservatives, and neo-conservative religious nuts.

    I firmly believe Ron Paul is a true conservative. Sarah Palin is a joke. She is a neo-con war hawk.

    RON PAUL is the true conservative, and should lead the tea-party movement!

    February 4, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  20. Mister B ::: Ottawa

    Is it a GREEN Tea Party?

    February 4, 2010 at 8:40 am |
  21. casey

    thank god its a blessing to know that there are Americans in America what a breath of fresh air to hear the voice of the people

    February 4, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  22. Lynda

    When you have the likes of fallin palin on the roster for these teabaggers, you know they are easily scammed out of their money and THE WEAKEST LINK.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:36 am |
  23. Eva

    The hypocrisy of the Tea Party movement is that it is bankrolled by one of the largest privately owned companies in America.Those who organized and financed it are protecting corporate America at the expense of "we the people," just like the Supreme Court did. The peoplewith signs and tea bags haning from their hats who are screaming about big government are just tools in the hands of big business. It's political manipulation at its worst, and the people who pull the strings are are motivated by greed and the insatiable thirst for power. Besides, in the South where I live, many of the Tea Party folks are racist, as demonstrated by their awful signs and hateful speech.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  24. Yusuf

    It is unavoidable that race has the most to do with this hyper issue. Presidents for years have embraced members of the other party. I am sick of seeing CNN covering this mostly whites only "movement" that shows supporters yelling out questionable slogans like "I want my country back," and showing the president as an African tribesman. Even on the news the reporters commented that this is unusual because President Reagan and Tip O'Neill would swap Irish jokes with each other. Everyone is tripping over themselves to avoid the obvious. This reminds me of a time in America where if you were seen with a black man (or appearing too comfortable with a black man, you were a race traitor. That's why blacks spent so much time sitting at the back of the bus, restaurants, etc. I guess Crist should not have shaken hands with one of "those people".

    February 4, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  25. Brad C

    The Tea Party Express is a modern-day racist movement. The movement is comprised of mostly poorly educated, lower-middle-class white people who are informed primarily by the right-wing, incendiary propaganda they see on FOX "News". They listen to fools like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly. They are gullible and misinformed, motivated primarily by hatred and fear. They are easily manipulated by charismatic pundits to unwittingly work against their own best interests.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  26. Chris

    The Tea Party movement consists of a lot of white people who are sour on the fact that we have a black president. They are anti- gay and anti-American. Visit their web site and look at the photos. They are the Klan without sheets.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  27. jackie

    I'm so offended by the media reporting that the Tea Party movement is linked only to the Republican party (I'm an independent) and blaming only Republicans for hyper-partisanship. In my state, I've watched the Dems get a free pass for all the damage they created while only shining the spotlight on Republicans and any little thing they do. If you hate what happened under Bush'd presidency when Republicans reigned, then why are the Dems repeating the very same behavior?!

    February 4, 2010 at 8:23 am |
  28. mac

    The tea party movement is blatantly un-American. It makes me sick to even see them carry an American flag.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:21 am |
  29. mike-sey

    Makes you nostalgic for the Smokey Back Rooms, doesn't it !

    February 4, 2010 at 8:20 am |
  30. Catie

    No matter how many times I see these Tea Party individuals on TV, local or national, I can't help but notice how much older and whiter they are than any of the other "party's". Does anyone else notice that?

    February 4, 2010 at 8:16 am |
  31. Ralph Patch

    Quit wasting our time reporting on these right wing fanatics. When they think the Republicans are too far left, you know they have real problems.

    February 4, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  32. msee

    This story is so slanted, it's laughable. Head of GOP, Jim Greer's resignation has nothing to do with a hug!! It has everything to do with money improprieties... Stop hugging the tea baggers and report the real news... and if you can't get to the facts, don't bother reporting at all.
    Funny you didn't manage to report about the document shredding truck in front of Greer's office 2 days before his resignation.

    February 4, 2010 at 7:36 am |
  33. Ed

    Ms. Palin as the next leader of ANY party, even the extremist TEA Party, makes one really scratch their head. Keep talkin Sarah!

    February 4, 2010 at 7:11 am |
  34. Raymond

    The Tea party movement has merged with dangerous, racist, extreme movements on the right. If you want to know what most African Americans think about the Tea Party movement, It can be sumed-up in one word, "RACIST".

    February 4, 2010 at 6:32 am |
  35. Peanut

    The repulicians planted the seed of the tea party and now the tea party tree is getting to big for them to even control now.

    February 4, 2010 at 6:26 am |
  36. Bert Pace

    Tea Party are angry white folks who could have made all of their points starting with the last administration but did not. What does that say? I think they are losers and racist. The lack of knowledge they exhibit coupled with their rage I find scary.

    February 4, 2010 at 6:26 am |
  37. Larry Lind

    Stop the gov. spending!!!

    February 4, 2010 at 6:24 am |