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Disgruntled Democrats join the Tea Party

By Shannon Travis, CNN Political Producer
Tea Party supporters, whose party affiliation is not known, rally in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Tea Party supporters, whose party affiliation is not known, rally in Grand Junction, Colorado.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tea Party movement champions less government, lower taxes
  • Tea Party Express is traveling the country leading up to "Tax Day"
  • Some Democrats, upset with President Obama, have joined the movement

Grand Junction, Colorado (CNN) -- They are not typical Tea Party activists: A woman who voted for President Obama and believes he's a "phenomenal speaker." Another who said she was a "knee-jerk, bleeding heart liberal."

These two women are not alone.

Some Americans who say they have been sympathetic to Democratic causes in the past -- some even voted for Democratic candidates -- are angry with President Obama and his party. They say they are now supporting the Tea Party -- a movement that champions less government, lower taxes and the defeat of Democrats even though it's not formally aligned with the Republican Party.

To be sure, the number of Democrats in the Tea Party movement is small. A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that while 96 percent of Tea Party activists identify themselves as either Republican or Independent, only 4 percent say they are Democrats.

Some of these disgruntled voters are taking part in the current Tea Party Express tour. The tour began in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's hometown of Searchlight, Nevada, on March 28 and is making 44 stops across the nation. It ends in Washington on tax day -- April 15.

Ann Ducket attended the Tea Party rally in Grand Junction, Colorado, on Wednesday.

A lawyer and lifelong Democrat, Ducket made her political leanings clear: She said she was a campus community organizer for Democratic Sen. George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign, voted for Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, and previously ran for elective office in Colorado as a Democrat.

"I was a card-carrying member of the ACLU, and I probably did inhale in college," Ducket said.

Ducket, who is now an independent and did not vote for Obama, said the president has "carried things to an extreme."

Video: How diverse is the Tea Party?
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"I think we've gone too far on the side of government doing too much," Ducket said. "The Democratic Party is wanting to take care of everyone, instead of helping everybody stand on their own two feet."

Roxanne Lewis expressed a similar point of view. A small business owner in Grand Junction, Lewis described herself as a lifelong Democrat and called the president a "phenomenal speaker." She voted for him because she "believed in what he was saying: change."

But, Lewis added, "I should've listened a lot closer when he talked about 'spreading the wealth.' "

Asked how she feels about having voted for the president, Lewis said "I feel lied to, cheated and raped."

Lewis criticized the taxpayer-funded bailouts of financial institutions, which began under former President George W. Bush, and the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.

"These are not the Democrats that I have been brought up with," Lewis said. However, she said she will continue to be a Democrat.

"We hear from folks, probably at every rally, who say, 'I was a Democrat,' " Levi Russell, communications director for the Tea Party express tour, said.

"Having more Democrats join the movement shows that it is more representative of the American people than the antics of the Obama, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi, Reid leadership," Russell said.

The Democratic National Committee declined to comment.

David Saucedo is a rapper and community activist who frequently appears at Tea Party rallies. Using the stage name "Polatik," he performs rap songs that slam President Obama and the Democrats.

Though he eventually voted for GOP Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, he said he was initially impressed with the president.

Now Saucedo has turned into an Obama critic. "A lot of the things he says sound good, until you look at the consequences of what they will do on the long term."

Saucedo also said that most of his family voted for the president but now support the Tea Party. He said his sister in law's views sum up the family sentiment.

"She regrets voting for Barack Obama," he said.

 
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