From the moment word spread that Coats was planning a run against Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, surprised numerous state Republican activists and local leaders greeted the news with something short of enthusiasm.
When Indiana Republican National Committeeman James Bopp, a prominent Coats supporter, sent a late-night e-mail to a string of party officials linking to a news story detailing Coats’s interest in the race, state committee member Barbara Knochel wrote back: “Please excuse my naivete, but why would Coats, who retired once, come back? What am I missing here?”
For some state and local Republicans, there is frustration caused by the perception that the Washington GOP establishment — particularly the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which helped to woo Coats and has played an active and public role in promoting and defending his candidacy — is intruding in Indiana politics. And the populist conservative grass roots in the tea party movement feels it most acutely.
One day after Coats announced his interest in the race, a Huntington, Ind., tea party group circulated an e-mail with the subject line, “NO to RNC/Coats for force feeding us this crap sandwich,” while Emery McClendon, a Tea Party organizer, has distributed an e-mail to activists declaring that the push for a Coats candidacy “is the Republican Party’s way of slapping we the people in the face …”
A coalition of 10 state-based tea party groups, meanwhile, are set to launch the “Indiana Patriot Coalition,” which will be taking part in an e-mail and phone call campaign directed toward the Indiana Republican Party and the Republican National Committee, asking Washington to stay out of state races.
“We have our own state, we have our own candidates, and we have some darned good candidates,” said Mark Leyva, a tea party organizer who is involved with the effort.
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