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Scott McInnis offers a tea party invitation

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Yesterday in this space, we told you about tea party anger directed at gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis, who Fox News anointed as a TP hopeful in a Neil Cavuto interview embedded below.

But McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy swears McInnis is neither claiming to be the tea party's choice (see this December 3 campaign website post on the topic) nor taking their support for granted.

"Our job is building the broadest possible coalition to elect Scott governor," Duffy says. "That takes a lot of work, a lot of meetings, a lot of conversation and dialogue. And the folks in the tea party movement are a very important part of it."

Duffy describes tea party members as "active folks. They're holding rallies, they're getting involved in the political process. And that's great. So our job is to reach out to them, and to everybody who's interested in being part of Scott's coalition, to see if we can bring them aboard."

As for Cavuto's characterization of McInnis as Mr. Tea Party, Duffy says, "That was a mistake on their part that I think folks have properly questioned."

Did McInnis know in advance that Cavuto would be following this line of questioning, illustrated in the piece by footage of boisterous tea party events? Duffy admits to having suspicions about the theme based on "the Wall Street Journal piece that Fox took their view from."

The WSJ article certainly places tea parties front and center -- they're mentioned in the headline and almost every paragraph. Still, Duffy maintains that "we were there to talk about bringing together a very diverse coalition to support his candidacy. Neil has a great interest in the tea party movement, so we expected some questions about their role in Scott's coalition. But we were surprised by the assertion underneath that we had an endorsement. So, out of respect for the folks who are involved in those groups, we had a full explanation on our website very quickly, and that seems to have assuaged a lot of folks' concerns.

"We've invited people to look at the interview, and after they do, we're finding that when we talk to people who are concerned, they can see that of course we're not asserting an endorsement that doesn't exist. Most folks say, 'That's fine. Now let's get back to the subject at hand, which is electing a Republican governor.'"

That's not universally true, of course. Indeed, a rally co-starring tea party representatives as well as Dan Maes, McInnis' last remaining opponent, is scheduled for Saturday at the State Capitol; details are available in the blog linked above. Duffy concedes that "there are some folks who've made a decision to go in a different direction, and that's fine: I don't think they're persuadable. But the vast majority seem to accept the explanation."

Meanwhile, the liberal ProgressNow Colorado group has called on candidates to renounce support from tea parties, which it characterizes as extremist. Duffy refuses to swallow this bait.

"I'm not going to take advice on how to build our coalition from ProgressNow," he stresses. "I think in any organization, any broad movement that happens, you're always going to find something or somebody who says or does something you'd prefer they didn't. But in the main, what they're asking for is a focus on much more limited government, on real economic growth, on a government that returns much more authority to the people -- and that's certainly in line with what Scott has been talking about."

And he's been talking about it to tea party members -- most recently this weekend, when he spoke to a group in Grand Junction.

That doesn't necessarily mean he's willing to parrot every tea party line, though.

"We listen and we spend time in conversation with them, and they're getting to know Scott a little better," Duffy says. "But at the end of the day, Scott's the candidate. What Scott says -- his ideas and his philosophy -- is what will drive this coalition."

Until then, it's party time. Here's that Fox News interview.

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