Kevin, the point you raise regarding the state convention effort to change the Lieutenant Governor choice is an apt one. I remember sitting in that auditorium and seeing a lot of raw fuel all around, apparently enough to make a real difference and bring some changes. Unfortunately, it was pushing in all directions at once, consequently canceling itself out. At the time I was a minor participant in a TEA party, and assumed those in the leadership had communicated with each other, and done some planning and coordination - obviously not the case, as it turned out. If that had been done, what might be different today? In the last couple of years, the criticism of the TEA party movement is that it is just a motley collection of right-wing groups that are too disjointed to do anything productive.
Now that, for the first time, there is a mutual effort among groups to unite in accomplishing something effective, it is coming under fire from various directions as being:
A. A dark conspiracy by Hoekstra's enemies
B. A bunch of fractious wannabees that won't accomplish anything
C. An evil plot to destroy the TEA party movement (I didn't make that one up, it's out there)
It would save time if the critics would settle on one theory.
The criticism of the Indiana model is correct in that there isn't much there for Michigan to learn from. Indiana has only one clearly conservative candidate in the senate race, so there is nothing to dispute about the choice of candidate - they can go straight into campaign planning. Michigan is in a different category, in that several months will have to be spent on making the right choice of candidate, before campaign efforts can begin. The date of the straw poll was the subject of considerable discussion in November, some pushing for earlier, some for postponing it. There was concern expressed about acting before the filing deadline. You can find arguments either way. Since as TEA party members most of us are political amateurs, with experience primarily at grunt level door to door activity and outdoor events, we don't have money or political consultants to advise us on the professionally correct answer. The consensus was to hold the straw vote right before the presidential primary, with one of the factors being the MSM being present in the state then, and trying to take advantage of that for maximizing coverage to kick off the campaign. The choice can be criticized, but somebody had to put forward some plan, so we're going with the consensus one.
As far as I'm aware, the criteria that the MI4CS endorsement will be based on is up to each individual group to decide. There is no top down policy being imposed. The only MI4CS connection with FreedomWorks is like ICaucus, in that they offered to hold off on their endorsements until MiC4S had made a choice of candidate (one of the factors advancing the straw poll date). Freedomworks offered information and support if requested, but they have no vote in the choice. They received some sharp criticism at the Nov. 12 meeting for some letter implying support for one candidate, and as a result have promised to stay neutral until after the MiC4S vote. (That's my recollection, anyway.)
Regarding "... only 55 of these groups are participating in the straw poll.": Initially, a large number of groups were invited and showed up at the Nov. 12 presentation. As time went on and people began communicating, there were complaints that there were cases of two people and a dog meeting at the local donut shop once a month, and using the internet to present themselves as a TEA party group. Since every group gets exactly two votes at the straw poll, that didn't sit well with groups that had, for instance, 700+ signed up members. Yes, it is a judgement call, but somebody has to make it. As more people passed information back and forth, again a consensus was reached. (And if it needs to be said, agreement is usually achieved only after considerable disputation.)
On the January 14th MI4CS debate at CMU, not all of the filed republican candidates will be there. One suddenly discovered that he was opposed to the whole principle, after having participated up until last week. Another is hemming and hawing, I think looking for an excuse for not showing up. It's notable that those bailing out, both big and little fish, are the ones who are starting to conclude they have thin prospects of getting TEA party support.
Kevin, I noticed that you (or someone using your name) recently registered for the MiC4S private forum. Since you voluntarily chose to join that effort, I hope it is in the interest of contributing to it, and not sabotaging it. The idea of instigating a Democratic primary challenger might be a good one, why don't you propose it? I don't know if the Dems are too well organized to block that, but it's worth looking into.
In the end, the choice for the Michigan TEA party movement comes down to - learn from past lessons, and try to communicate and coordinate efforts, or continue as before and push randomly in all directions at once. Which should it be?