Inside and outside of Oakland

Romney to court southeast Michigan tea party groups

  Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will be courting Oakland County and southeast Michigan's tea party groups, just days in advance of Michigan's Feb. 28 primary.
  Romney will be at a one-hour forum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at Baker's Restaurant in Milford.
  The event is open only to tea party members, and tickets for the estimated 500-seat event are being distributed through the various tea party groups.

  The tea party groups invited four Republican presidential candidates, but Romney is the only who responded so far, says Deb O'Hagan of the Lakes Area Tea Party.
Romney's appearance is not an endorsement by the tea party organizations.
  "This doesn't mean we support him," O'Hagan said. "This is about getting the candidates in and asking them questions."
  Participating tea party groups are the Brighton Tea Party, Lakes Area Tea Party, Tea Party Patriots of West Oakland County, RetakeOurGov, Rattle with Us, Willow Run Tea Party Caucus, Troy Tea Party and Lapeer Tea Party.
  Romney, the conservative alternative to John McCain four years ago, now finds himself branded as a moderate by his rivals — former Pennsylvania Rick Santorum, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul from Texas.
  In Michigan, Romney and Santorum are neck and neck in most polls. Both were campaigning in Michigan Tuesday — Romney at a town hall in Shelby Township and Santorum in west Michigan.
  Despite a series of debates throughout the fall and winter, Republicans have not gelled behind one candidate yet, despite a field of candidates that has dwindled to four.
  Besides his Republican rivals, Romney, and Santorum to a lesser degree, are also the target of Democrats.
  That was true Tuesday when Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer, state Rep. Harold Haugh of Roseville, and UAW Local 1700 President Bill Parker held a conference call before the Romney event to criticize both of them.

  They criticized both Romney's and Santorum's economic policies, and again attacked Romney's opposition to federal bailouts credited with rescuing struggling General Motors and Chrysler three years ago.
  Except for Gingrich, who currently has no Michigan events scheduled, the Republican candidates will be stepping up their Michigan appearances ahead of the primary. The candidates will also divide their time with Arizona, which holds its primary the same day.
  All four will be in Arizona this evening for a 6 p.m. debate sponsored by CNN and the Arizona Republican Party.
  Paul will campaign Sunday in Hudsonville, on Michigan's west side, and in East Lansing on Monday.
  Romney, following his tea party event in Milford Thursday, will appear before the Detroit Economic Club on Friday. Santorum addressed the economic club Feb. 16.

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