Former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday warned Democrats not to underestimate the Tea Party movement heading into the November midterm elections.
Clinton, who many regard as one of the top political minds on the Democratic side, urged members of his party to not be shy about calling out Republican candidates backed by Tea Party groups who say "something weird."
Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if the Democrats are underestimating the Tea Party movement, Clinton replied "I don't know. I think it would be a mistake."
Tea Party groups this cycle have helped outside GOP candidates achieve several key victories in Senate primary races such as those in Alaska, Utah, Kentucky, Nevada and Delaware.
Democrats have painted those victories over establishment GOP candidates as examples of Republican infighting that could hurt the GOP's chances in the general election. They have also targeted candidates such as Delaware's Christine O'Donnell and Alaska's Joe Miller for having views they say are outside the mainstream.
In a bid to help Democrats fend off any conservative momentum, the White House was reportedly weighing several ideas, including a national ad campaign, that paints the GOP and the Tea Party movement as one and the same. The White House has since denied that having plans for an ad campaign.
Clinton said that followers of the movement are genuinely upset with economic conditions in America and the government's response to them, but he went after "the funders of the Tea Party movement" who he said "tend to be pretty far-right extremists whose goal is to destroy the power of government to mediate the power of corporations."
The 42nd president advised Democrat not to "play games" and go straight to the heart of the Tea Party's alleged extremism.
"My advice for the Democrats is, don't play games," he said. "I think we should play it straight. If they got a
Tea Party opponent who says something weird like the guy running for
senator from Alaska, who says unemployment compensation is
unconstitutional. Or the man running for senator from Arkansas who says
that we should have a 23 percent across the board sales tax instead of
an income tax, which would raise taxes for 85 percent of ours. Or the
governor running in Colorado who says Denver's bike paths are a U.N.
plot to take the sovereignty of Denver away from the United States."
But Clinton said that Democrats will have to do more than just hit the Tea Party movement to win the election.
"Treat the American people with respect. Tell them what you're going to do, ask them who's more likely to do it," he said. "If it's a choice, we can win. If it's a referendum, it's not good."