By Tim Kiska

Until now, Michigan’s various Tea Party groups have more or less done their own thing. Fiercely protective of their own independence and allergic to anybody who would give orders from above, they’ve voluntarily restricted their power to their own particular corners of the state.

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But there’s a move afoot to unite as one big family to take down U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

The groups plan to hold a straw poll February 25 to choose a Republican U.S. candidate in 2012. That’ll be preceded by a January 14 debate, which will be aired via SKYPE.

Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra has been making moves to make himself more appealing to the group. He’s landed an endorsement from failed Nevada U.S. Senate candidate, Sharron Angle. But challenger Clark Durant has been tilling the fields, as well. And candidate Gary Glenn has an endorsement from Fox News’s Mike Huckabee, which carries weight in Tea Party circles.

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Cindy Gamrat runs the Michigan4Conservative Senate group, and she says she learned that unity can mean a lot in politics. Before moving to Michigan, she involved herself in Tea Party activities in Indiana. “We didn’t unite there,” she recalls. “And the person we liked the least won.”

She doesn’t want that to happen again.

Gamrat estimates the number of Tea Party organization in the diaspora at 65, although the number shifts constantly.

The smart money says a Tea Party endorsement could mean a lot for a Republican in the August 2012 Senate primary.

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But it could be the kiss of death in the November general election.