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FreedomWorks has made defeating Hatch a top priority in 2012 and is already mobilizing activists on the ground around the opportunity to pick up another seat for their wing of the Republican Party. It is clear the group has a strategy: getting anti-Hatch activists elected in local caucuses so they can influence the state convention next year. That’s how conservatives ousted then-Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), recognized as one of the first electoral casualties of the tea party movement.
The group complains that Hatch, a six-term Republican known as a Democratic deal-maker, is too liberal, and it criticizes his votes for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and to raise the debt ceiling.
FreedomWorks coordinates closely with the Republican Study Committee, an influential caucus of conservative House lawmakers, and will be visited today by two of its favorite GOP Senators: Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee, who it helped to elect in Utah after Bennett lost at the convention.
“This is one group that’s known to actually have activists,” RSC Executive Director Paul Teller said. “If you actually need bodies to do things, many of the other groups cannot produce them.”
The NRSC policy is to back incumbents in primaries, period. But with FreedomWorks looking at the primary against Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar (R) as an opportunity for a Libertarian-leaning candidate, the NRSC isn’t likely to cozy up with the activists anytime soon. When it comes to Senate endorsements, FreedomWorks will continue to be stingy, Kibbe said.
Kibbe, whose trademark sideburns seem to creep closer and closer to his lips everyday, has developed a following among the activists. Ann Sullivan, who came to this weekend’s training from North Carolina, wears a T-shirt emblazoned with his face above the slogan, “Chops you can believe in.”
“I use the shirt as a way to talk to people,” said Sullivan, secretary of the Wayne County Republican Party in North Carolina. “I like my propaganda.”
As activists savored barbecue during a lunch break Sunday between sessions on the 2012 targets and the math behind effective campaigning, staffers eyed the FreedomWorks Facebook page. With about 796,000 “likes,” the group was about 10,000 supporters ahead of its sometime-rival the Tea Party Patriots, another national tea party group.
“How far ahead of TPP are we?” one staffer asked. “10,000? That’s something like awesome. I think 1 million is feasible by August.”