Koch-backed tea party group rolls into Sarasota

The Obama’s Failing Agenda Tour bus / COOPER LEVEY-BAKER

“It’s not about a party, it’s not about helping one guy or the other,” Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips told the crowd, but the 60 or so activists and volunteers who turned up at AFP’s Sarasota headquarters last Friday could be forgiven for thinking the group is about helping one guy: Mitt Romney.

The day after Romney accepted the Republican presidential nomination in Tampa, Phillips rolled into Sarasota as part of the Obama’s Failing Agenda Tour, which attacks President Obama’s health care reform legislation, his record on the debt and unemployment, and the “Billions Wasted on Solyndra and Green Energy Scams.” AFP was founded and is partially financed by the Koch brothers, the famous oil billionaires whose various right-wing organizations plan to spend $400 million to defeat Obama, according to Politico. David Koch has called Obama “scary” and a “hardcore socialist.”

The dozens of activists assembled in the AFP Sarasota headquarters milled about in green T-shirts that read, “November Is Coming.” Tea Party Manatee members showed up, as did members of 13 Patriots, a Sarasota tea party group. Obama is “a Muslim and a communist,” one woman (who called herself a “patriot, a true American, not a communist American”) told me before the event began.

Phillips spoke to Sarasota AFP volunteers for about 20 minutes, emphasizing the importance of grassroots action and citing past successes like defeating cap and trade (which was drafted only to satisfy the left’s “global warming ideology”) and card check (“Big Labor’s biggest agenda item”).

“It didn’t happen because we had more money,” Phillips said, praising AFP volunteers for their hard work. He called the passage of “ObamaCare” a “bitter, frustrating defeat,” but said volunteers should be proud that polls show Americans view parts of the law unfavorably.

Phillips then shifted into campaign mode, urging AFP supporters to make phone calls and canvass neighborhoods to make sure Obama loses this November. (“Deport him,” said one man standing near me at the back of the room.) According to Phillips, Sarasota is “ground zero” of the 2012 campaign, a vital toss-up region in make-or-break Florida.

The Sarasota stop was the first in the Failing Agenda tour, which has hit several cities in the last week and will head to Wisconsin and Colorado soon.