Tim Pawlenty’s push to court the tea party will take him to Mitt Romney’s backyard next month.
Pawlenty will be the featured speaker during the April 15 Greater Boston Tea Party Tax Day rally, a gathering on the Boston Common expected to draw hundreds, if not thousands, of area conservatives not far from where the original Boston tea party took place.
Romney, of course, is a former Massachusetts governor. And he’s expected to challenge Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, for the Republican nomination for president.
“Governor Pawlenty’s leadership in Minnesota has put his state on a course toward economic success,” Christen Varley, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party, said in a statement released Wednesday. “His is a message voters need to hear.”
Former New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate John Stephen is also on a speaking program that includes no fewer than 11 people.
While Pawlenty has made an aggressive effort to draw tea party support, grass-roots conservatives have been slow to warm to Romney, in part because of the statewide health care bill approved under his watch.
In a recent interview, Varley said that it was far from a foregone conclusion that Romney would win the GOP presidential primary, even in Massachusetts.
“I think Mitt Romney would make a great president. We need a business guy to run this failing business we call America,” Varley told Roll Call.
But she recalled a recent conversation in Starbucks with a Romney staffer, who referred to the health care legislation as “RomneyCare.”
“He’s going to be working on the presidential team. I go, ‘If you can’t not call it RomneyCare, how can I?’” Varley said. “Everybody calls it that. ... And then the president congratulated him? If the president ever congratulated me on anything, I would move to a farm in the Scottish highlands. It’s the kiss of death. I feel bad about it.”
Romney has consistently argued that the Massachusetts health care bill, which in some way served as the model for President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, was appropriately handled as a state’s rights issue.
Some conservatives, apparently, need more convincing.