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Tea Partiers face 'branding' concerns

Associated Press

We talked recently about the Republican Main Street Partnership, a Washington-based group that has promoted moderate GOP lawmakers and policies, engaging in some rebranding. After discovering that there aren't any Republicans left in the center, the group dropped the "R" word and became simply the Main Street Partnership.

They're not the only one feeling the need to undergo a name change (via Jillian Rayfield).

The South Florida Tea Party -- the group that helped Marco Rubio launch his Senate bid and that hosted Donald Trump during his last flirtation with a presidential run -- is shedding the words "tea party" as it undergoes a name change.

"We felt for branding reasons that we wanted to differentiate ourselves from certain organizations that have the name 'tea party' and we can't control," said Everett Wilkinson, leader of the organization that will now be called the National Liberty Federation.

As Tea Party groups go, the South Florida Tea Party was one of the bigger and better organized outfits. It not only propelled Marco Rubio, it also helped elect former Rep. Allen West. When Trump wanted to earn some credibility with right-wing activists, he spent some time in April 2011 with the South Florida Tea Party.

And yet, the group now realizes that the "Tea Party" label seems to do more harm than good.

That's consistent with the available polling evidence, which shows the Tea Party even less popular than Republicans.

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journalpoll asked respondents about their attitudes towards various people and institutions, and the results for the Tea Party were abysmal. Just 9% have a "very positive" impression of the so-called movement -- an all-time low -- while 32% have a "very negative impression -- an all-time high. All told, the Tea Party's favorability rating is down to just 23%, which is even lower than the GOP's support and that of the NRA.

Politicoadded in a report last week, "Many activists have moved on, while others have turned their focus to local and state fights, or become absorbed into the Republican Party. Those that remain are as divided as ever about candidates and strategies. And they mostly lack the cash and the organization to mount serious primary challenges on their own."

If the "movement" still exists, it's gasping for air -- and relevance.