Between now and 2012, Michele Bachmann and others will have to defend a movement many see as extreme. How do their answers stack up?
With solid debate performances by Rep. Michele Bachmann in New Hampshire on Monday night and businessman Herman Cain in the South Carolina one, it now seems more realistic than ever that an anti-Obama, tea-party firebrand will emerge as a legitimate player in the 2012 GOP presidential primary. With that newfound realism comes an important challenge for anyone seeking to claim the tea-party mantle while still competing for the nomination: how to package and sell the tea party to the rest of the Republican coalition.
The press is starting to ask questions about whether the tea party movement can play nicely with the rest of the GOP in 2012, as CNN's John King did in Monday night's debate.
As tea partiers answer those questions, we're going to hear a lot more of what Bachmann told us Monday night in response to King:
BACHMANN: Terry, what I've seen in the Tea Party -- I'm the chairman of the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives. And what I've seen is unlike how the media has tried to wrongly and grossly portray the Tea Party, the Tea Party is really made up of disaffected Democrats, independents, people who've never been political a day in their life.
People who are libertarians, Republicans. It's a wide swath of America coming together. I think that's why the left fears it so much. Because they're people who simply want to take the country back. They want the country to work again.
Tea Party Express co-chair Amy Kremer reiterated that point in an interview Tuesday with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell. "That's why there are Democrats and independents that identify with the movement, because they too want fiscal responsibility," Kremer said.