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Tea Partiers Plan to Chill Out

This article originally appeared in the CQ Weekly 2012 Republican Convention Guide.

Although many tea party activists denounced Mitt Romney during the primaries as an establishment Republican moderate who doesn’t reflect the diverse movement’s upstart ideals, tea partiers seemingly have no desire to play into the Democrats’ hands by hijacking the Republican convention.

Instead, the tea party is coming to Florida to support democracy and music.?

“This is a celebration of our country and what it’s about, the beauty of our election system and all that,” said Palm Beach County Tea Party founder Pam Wohlschlegel. “We’re all patriots, and we want to be in support of the system.”

This will be the first presidential convention since the tea parties formed to oppose President Obama’s economic and health care plans. Within two years, the movement that initially reverberated with anger at National Mall rallies and congressional town halls has largely settled into a professionalized citizen advocacy effort. ?

Romney chose to be introduced at the convention by Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who was elected two years ago with tea party backing. Vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin is another favorite, and his addition to the ticket has warmed many activists to the idea of voting for the Republican ticket.?

“Both Marco and Paul are big in the tea parties because they are two people who are not afraid to go out there and say, ‘Here is the truth,'” says Wohlschlegel, who is also Florida’s state coordinator for the national Tea Party Patriots. ?

For their big event, the Patriots plan to cosponsor a concert with the conservative activist group Citizens United. Country singer and emphatic tea party backer Trace Adkins is expected to headline the Aug. 28 jam session at Liberty Plaza, a venue close to the convention site that is hosting many political events that week. Prior to the concert, the Patriots are participating in a salute to the U.S. military at the same location. Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, a former Army lawyer, will speak.?

Tea partiers and Citizens United are also combining efforts to host movie screenings during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. ?

“We’re not protesting either event, and we’re not supporting either event,” Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, said of the conventions.?

The benign presence in both cities is part of the group’s effort to focus on voter outreach instead of attention-grabbing protests before November. Martin said most activists elected to stay in their respective cities rather than travel to the conventions so that they can register voters who will support the movement’s principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets, and a constitutionally limited government.

Rival group Tea Party Express also plans to attend the Tampa convention with a focus on defeating the president and not on intraparty tensions. Chairwoman Amy Kremer said all conservatives are united in their goal to “take back the White House and the Senate.”  

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