This weekend, a first for the first-in-the-South primary: Tea Party activists will hold a statewide convention in Myrtle Beach leading up to the GOP debate there Monday night. See the Facebook page.
One of the organizers, Joe Dugan of the Myrtle Beach Tea Party, says the convention is booked at capacity (500) but only Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have agreed to speak. Current leader Mitt Romney has not signed on so far, though Gov. Nikki Haley and SC Treasurer Curtis Loftis, both Romney supporters, will speak at the gathering.
Presidential candidates will each get 20 minutes to speak, to answer the question,”Why do you deserve Tea Party support?”
There will be no presidential endorsement to come out of this convention, says Dugan, and they will not take a straw poll, as had been incorrectly reported in national media.
Romney is not the favorite candidate of various Tea Party leaders we have spoken with, but the movement in SC has not attacked him either. The Tea Party’s de facto hero, Sen. Jim DeMint has actually criticized Newt Gingrich for attacking Romney.
“Newt and others do not appear to be in the game. To damage a front-runner makes no sense to me,” DeMint told MSNBC yesterday.
DeMint will open the convention. Members of Congress speaking: Rep. Tim Scott (1st District), Rep. Jeff Duncan (3rd District), and Rep. Mick Mulvaney (5th District).
The event is only open to Tea Party members and the press and because of demand, leaders are working out ways to handle overflow seating at Springmaid Beach Resort.
There will be two days of lectures and meetings with state and national Tea Party leaders, designed to reinforce the presence of the conservative, constitution-focused groups in the state and to rally and educate members of the movement. Review Tea Party convention agenda.
“We fill that it is the mission of the Tea Parties in general to educate themselves so that they are equipped to go out an educate the public who does not hear about these issues in the normal media,” Dugan says.
And the operative term is groups, plural. The state’s Tea Parties and affiliated groups have different personalities and tactics. In fact, they resist having an overall spokesman. That is why there are individual Tea Parties endorsing different candidates– or no candidates at all.
Among the speakers are leaders of the nation’s two largest Tea Party groups: Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler, the founders of the Tea Party Patriots, and Freedomworks vice-President Max Pappas.
The convention is happening south of the SC GOP’s festivities surrounding the FOX News/SC GOP/Wall Street Journal debate, but state party chair Chad Connelly will speak to the Tea Parties Sunday afternoon.
“What I’ve been trying to tell the Tea Party groups is the same thing I’ve been telling the party groups is stay involved, we love having you involved. That’s what this is about, this thing called a constitutional republic means that you’ve got to choose, you’ve got to be informed, you’ve got to be engaged. You can’t stay on the sidelines.
The convention’s participants have no desire to stay on the sidelines, says Dugan. All 500 have signed up for the free tickets to the debate and plan to attend it together.