Most tea party activists call themselves Republican, but one Democratic congressman has now received a tea party endorsement.
The Tea Party Express on Thursday announced its support for Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, making him the first Democrat in Congress to gain tea party backing.
Minnick didn’t expect the move.
"It was a complete surprise," his spokesman John Foster told The Huffington Post.
He expressed ambivalent appreciation for the endorsement.
Asked if the congressman would accept it, Foster said, "Um, sure. Walt is not in the habit of turning down support."
But Foster then made clear the acceptance is tepid.
"Being on a list with [strong conservative Reps.] Joe Wilson and Michele Bachmann is not something we are embracing," Foster said. "But we do appreciate that they recognize Walt's firm stance on fiscal accountability."
Minnick spoke to a Tea Party Express meeting in August.
"They invited all four members of Idaho's delegation, and Walt shocked everybody by being the only one who showed up in person,” Foster said.
"He got a lot of support for his fiscal stance. But very little support for what he said about the president [for whom he reiterated his support]. By the end, they gave him a standing ovation."
To be sure, tea partyers skew overwhelmingly Republican.
A New York Times/CBS poll showed that 54 percent of tea party members have a favorable view of Republicans, compared to 43 percent unfavorable. A whopping 92 percent have an unfavorable view of Democrats.
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