Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, leader of the conservative grassroots (or Astro-turf, depending on how you look at these things) organization Freedom Works, is hitting the road. His goal: to stretch the electoral map for American conservatism, and to keep up the momentum that's been generated this year behind his cause.
The New York Times Magazine recently chronicled a swing through North Carolina, and, over the next few days, Armey will be traveling to more states, meeting up with conservative activists and holding Freedom Works rallies in New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
Armey spends most of his time at his 89-acre ranch north of Dallas, Texas (in today's Washington Post, Armey is quoted as he's petting a goat), but, according to a Freedom Works staffer, his travels have picked up over the past few months.
The group--and Armey--have attained some newfound power and importance this year as conservative grassroots energy has mounted. Freedom Works is one of the principle groups that helps organize the Tea Party protests, driving turnout among its own members and helping activists connect and network with other interested individuals and smaller Tea-Party organizations.
Most recently, it mobilized its members to support Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in New York's 23rd district special election; now, it's planning a ground campaign backing conservative Marco Rubio in Florida's GOP Senate primary, and another in support of Pat Toomey's (R) Senate bid in Pennsylvania, according to spokesman Adam Brandon.
With the Club for Growth pouring money and TV ads into elections to support conservative candidates, Freedom Works and the Tea Partiers have, more or less, become the conservative movement's ground game.
His upcoming travel schedule--which includes some stops well outside GOP Country--shows that his plans for the movement are somewhat ambitious.
Tonight, Armey will be in Brooklyn for a gathering of activists at Toro, an Asian fusion restaurant, at 1 Front Street. Tomorrow, he'll head to Connecticut for another gathering at the Circle Diner in Fairfield. Connecticut, Brandon says, is another state where Freedom Works could mobilize its network to play in a 2010 campaign, as Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd is considered vulnerable.
Armey will attend Freedom Works rallies on Saturday, where activists will march on the state capitols in Raleigh, North Carolina and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The group hopes its activist network can become a major factor in campaigns across the country.
"We're very committed to proving to the nation that the Tea Party movement is much like a 50-state strategy," Brandon said.
There is momentum behind conservative activism right now, and the multitude of protests across the country on April 15--the first major day of Tea Party action--showed that 50-state involvement might not be a stretch, after all.
So that's what Armey is doing right now: going out
into the states--not necessarily the Southern states that are
considered viable territory for the GOP, but an expanded map that
includes spots on the East Coast where Democratic incumbents are
vulnerable, and, of all places, Brooklyn--and trying to solidify that
momentum, with an eye toward playing in the midterm elections in 2010.