Reading the Tea Party’s tea leaves in District 4

The Tea Party, already fighting a battle for the soul of the GOP, has an internal power struggle of its own.

Ron Vincent, one of the organizers of the movement in South Mississippi and a board member of the Hattiesburg Tea Party, has lost the endorsement of the South Mississippi Tea Party, according to a post on the Facebook page of one of its officials.

“As executive board member of the South MS Tea Party, regrettably I have to announce that the South MS Tea Party has withdrawn its endorsement as of Monday, March 31st of Ron Vincent as candidate for MS House 4th Congressional District for cause,” Paul Boudreaux posted. “Any inquiries may direct then to myself in a PM or the Ron Vincent campaign.”

Vincent, who’s challenging U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo and others in the June 3 primary, said the break came because Tom Carter wants him to leave the race. Vincent said Tea Party members have been fed a lot of false rumors, including that he was meeting with former Congressman Gene Taylor, another primary candidate.

“What happened with the South Mississippi Tea Party — and I don’t want to make any enemies down there, I’ve known those guys for five years — they just threw me under the bus,” Vincent said. “I haven’t had a chance to refute them or rebut them.”

Could the real reason be the Tea Party sees Carter as the strongest candidate with Tea Party leanings? Boudreaux was indisposed Friday and couldn’t be asked (see his Facebook page for details).

It’s a risky move, unless the Tea Party is secretly pining for the return of Taylor. A strong Tea Party candidate would take votes from Palazzo in Tea Party strongholds in Jones and Pearl River counties, places Taylor could use some help. About the only scenario I could see a Tea Party follower voting for Taylor would be in a general election race against Trish Causey, the brightest-burning liberal.

Carter, who said he had heard Vincent was on the outs, said he didn’t know who the Tea Party would back now. He has been going to the meetings, though, and its meeting notice lists him among the guests Monday at 6:30 at the D’Iberville Recreation Center.