Republican presidential candidates are making a big play for Tea Party support only a few weeks ahead of the early primary states.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump spoke to the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition convention Saturday in Myrtle Beach.
Huckabee told Fox News that the Tea Party movement remains strong.
“I think that a lot of fundamentals of the Tea Party have economic policies that empower people from the bottom up rather than have an economy that works from the top down,” he said.
He cited his first run for the White House, in 2008.
“I was saying this eight years ago before anybody else,” Huckabee said. “So I'm happy that at least the message … is taking root throughout the party.”
The Tea Party first helped propel the Republicans to power in Congress in 2010 and build upon their majority in 2012.
Yet since then, support for the movement has seemed to diminish. Americans identifying as supporters of the Tea Party went from 32 percent in 2010 to 17 percent in 2015, according to Gallup.
Cruz touted his Tea Party credentials to 1,000 attendees as a way to prove he’s the only true conservative running for the Republican nomination.
“If you’re really a conservative, you’re really a Constitutionalist,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to tell anybody, because you will bear the scars. You will have been in the foxholes, in the fight.
You would have been standing for your principles. And it will be evident for everyone to see.”
Cruz says his fights on Capitol Hill to repeal ObamaCare and stop efforts to provide amnesty to illegal immigrants show he stands for Tea Party ideals.
He tried to draw a comparison between himself and his GOP rivals.
“You can’t be Tea Party” if politicians support ethanol subsidies in Iowa because its “good politics.”
Republican candidates in the past have supported the subsidy as a way to woo support from the industry in Iowa ahead of its Feb. 1 caucus.
Cruz has gone against the trend pushing for a phase out of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Trump said his business record and success shows he aligns with the Tea Party agenda by pushing his projects like New York’s Wollman Rink and a new hotel in Washington to be under budget and ahead of schedule.
“We can do this on a government scale,” he said. “We [can] spend the least, and have the best.”
Trump said the Tea Party “are among the great people - they want to see this country great again."
Though when he discussed a report regarding Cruz's bank loans, supporters of the Texas senator booed the businessman with one-man yelling, “show the proof!”
The room had an equal amount of visible Cruz and Trump supporters perhaps previewing a possible split in Tea Party support between the candidates come primary day.
Chris Snyder is a producer for Fox News based in New York. Follow him on twitter: @ChrisSnyderFox.