Tea party patriarch and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey takes issue with the prevailing wisdom that the defeat of a Republican House candidate in Tuesday’s special election in New York was a referendum on GOP efforts to overhaul Medicare.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, the Texas Republican also says the third-party candidate who purported to represent the tea party in the New York race was an “interloper” and not a true tea party activist.
And Armey maintains that presidential candidate Newt Gingrich demonstrated “amazingly bad judgment” in criticizing the Medicare reform proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan.
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Armey served in the House from 1985 to 2003. He is now chairman of FreedomWorks and the co-author of “Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.”
In the New York race, Democrat Kathy Hochul received about 47 percent of the vote, and Republican Jane Corwin got 42 percent. But former Democrat Jack Davis, running on the Tea Party ballot line, got 9 percent.
Democrats are touting Hochul's triumph in a district long dominated by Republicans as a repudiation of the Medicare reform plan that the Republican-controlled House had passed but the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected Wednesday.
Asked whether he agrees with that assertion, Armey tells Newsmax: “No, I don’t think so at all. My own view is, without knowing a whole deal about the race, that the Democrat probably just ran a better race.”
Armey also believes that Republicans have not made a mistake by supporting Ryan’s deficit-reduction proposal, which include the Medicare overhaul.
“They need to explain themselves better, but part of the problem is you have one very courageous Republican who’s gotten out there and is prepared to take the initiatives that are needed for the country, and you’ve got an awful lot of other Republicans that simply don’t have the courage to step up and give him support.
“The office holders in the Republican Party need to understand that if you will see the thing through, you will probably find yourself quite successful.”
Asked whether Republican presidential candidates should make adjustments in their campaigns in response to the results in New York, Armey responds: “One of the adjustments I’d be making if I were a presidential candidate is to make sure I’m campaigning as hard as I have to campaign to win a race.
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“Last year in one of the Senate races in the East where the Republican candidate just didn’t think he needed to make the race, he ends up losing the race, then comes back and says it was because there were tea party activists out there. That’s not exactly true. He lost the race because he didn’t do his job as a candidate.”
Asked whether Davis was a true tea party candidate and if he served as a spoiler in the New York race, Armey tells Newsmax: “We identified this fellow as sort of an interloper. This is always a problem. When you have a movement that is perceived to be as strong and powerful as the tea party is, everybody wants to pretend to be them.
“My view is that his presence in the race made the difference that a third party candidate’s presence might have made in any event. But the fact of the matter is that this was no tea party activist. He was an interloper.”
Armey says true tea partyers should run in GOP primaries rather than as third-party candidates.
“What we try to do is make our quarrels, if we have a quarrel with a Republican incumbent, in the primary process,” he says.
“Once the primary process is resolved, then we will fight for that person who is the more conservative person left standing in the race.”
Armey also offers Newsmax short takes on several of the potential Republican presidential candidates for 2012.
, he says, “understands what he needs to be in terms of a bona fide, reliable, constitutionally limited small government conservative.”
The problem for Mitt Romney
, who as Massachusetts governor instituted healthcare reform similar to Obamacare, is that “President Obama passed Obamacare and made it virtually impossible for Romney to find any ground on which he can stand.”
is an “interesting new face,” Armey says, “but we haven’t seen him actually out on the campaign trail.” Cain’s background as a businessman will help him, “especially in light of where we are now with probably the most proven incompetent person we’ve ever seen in the White House.”
is “clearly a reliable conservative with great appeal to a lot of people in the conservative movement.
“The big question with Sarah Palin
is, does in fact the governor intend to make the run? There seems to be a lot of doubt and confusion about that.”
Armey says his fellow Texan Ron Paul
faces an “uphill climb” to win the nomination.
As for Newt Gingrich
, who recently has drawn criticism for charging that Ryan’s deficit reduction plan is “right-wing social engineering,” then shifting his position and saying he supports the plan, Armey states: “Newt’s shown amazingly bad judgment in the past week or so. For him to have taken on Paul Ryan with such graphic language just amazed me. He’s put himself in a pretty seriously bad hole.”
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