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Eyeing the success of Moveon.org and other grassroots groups, the conservative-minded FreedomWorks, which has been at the frontline organizing tea partiers into a half-million strong membership, has announced ambitious plans on the fundraising front.
"(MoveOn) raised around $31 million in 2003. We're not sure we can raise that much, but think we can be in the multi-millions and be a major player in 2010," said Rob Jordan, FreedomWorks' vice president of federal and state campaigns.
On Monday, FreedomWorks brought together dozens of conservative activists from as far away as California, Arkansas, Ohio and Florida and put them in a room full of reporters, hoping to let the grassroots speak to the Washington establishment through the press.
"It's hot in Florida, Charlie Crist is on the run," said Thomas Gaiten, a Florida field coordinator for Freedom Works, who opposes the Florida governor's bid for the U.S. Senate seat.
"I'm arranging an event on February 10 for the one year anniversary of 'the stimulus hug,'" Gaiten said, referring to a hug between President Obama and Crist last year. Crist was an exuberant host and endorsed the president's $787 billion stimulus package, for which Crist is now under fire.
"The hug" is a moment that conservatives have flogged in Florida. A few months ago Crist was leading his Republican primary competitor, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, by 30 points. But the tea party movement in Florida has been aggressively organizing for Rubio both on the ground and on the Web and the latest polls show the two neck-and-neck.
Meanwhile in Arkansas, tea partiers are confident of ousting embattled Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who had wavered on the health care bill before supporting it in votes taken before Christmas
Lincoln "is out," said Rob Porto of Little Rock. "The only question is who is going to replace her, and we're still vetting prospective Republican candidates. We're planning a number of debates."
Greg Fettig drove the 600 miles from his native Indiana to give notice to incumbents that just because they are safe, they should be looking over their shoulder.
"I used to think I was alone, now I know there are others out there who want to stand up for fiscal conservatism," he said.
Fettig, who co-founded a group called "Hoosier Patriots," lives in the district of longtime Republican Rep. Dan Burton, but said he thinks it's time for Burton to go.
"He's got no fire. ... He's been there too long, people should just serve a term or two and then get out," he said.
The conservative, organic grassroots uprising is proving to be quite powerful, with Republicans all over the country scrambling to get in front of it, but the question remains whether the Republican Party will be able to harness it.
A National Tea Party Convention is scheduled for Nashville, Tenn., in early February with former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, a darling of the movement, as one of the featured speakers.
Tea party organizers admit they are a scattered and loose knit group despite efforts by established organizations like FreedomWorks doing the lifting.
Joking that the task of organizing is kind of like "herding cats," the activists are so anti-establishment they don't even like the idea that their own organization is having a convention and charging money for people to attend.
"I like Sarah Palin," said Scott Boston of the Bowling Green Ohio Tea Party Patriots.
"But I'm not going to spend $600 on a ticket. Tea party meetings are free. I have a feeling that the convention in Nashville is going to be about people who want to lead our parade but wouldn't be willing to march in it," Boston said.
Eyeing the success of Moveon.org and other grassroots groups, the conservative-minded FreedomWorks, which has been at the frontline organizing tea partiers into a half-million strong membership, has announced ambitious plans on the fundraising front. "(MoveOn) raised around $31 million in 2003. We're not sure we can raise that much, but think we can be in the multi-millions and be a major player in 2010," said Rob Jordan, FreedomWorks' vice president of federal and state campaigns.
For Democrats willing to see what's before their eyes, the nightmare came into sharper focus over the last week. Another 1994 might be in the offing.
Back then, the beginning of the end came on a procedural vote. A Democratic majority that had held the House for four decades lost a routine party-line vote on a "rule," a basic measure allowing it to control the House floor.
The August vote hit like a neutron bomb. Superficially, nothing changed: The Democrats still had a majority; they quickly re-established control and passed the underlying legislation, a liberal crime bill. Yet Republicans exulted at the whiff of legislative revolution: The Democrats had begun to lose their grip.
Scott Brown's victory last week in Massachusetts is the equivalent of that momentous vote. Democrats still have an 18-seat advantage in the Senate and a nearly 80-seat edge in the House. But the Brown win ends the heroic phase of the Obama era, which lasted precisely a year.
It is still 10 months until the midterm elections, and no one can know how events will play out before then. Will the job market revive? Can President Obama find traction? Yet this much is clear: Obama and the Democrats have done their utmost to create the predicate for a historic wipeout in November. They have put the House in jeopardy, and the consuming question of American politics for the rest of the year is whether they can pull it back.
You could say that it's January 1994 all over again -- but the level of the Democratic peril didn't become clear until much later that year. When Rep. Dick Armey told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that spring that Republicans might take the majority in the fall, he was practically laughed out of the room. Democrats have entered the red zone this year much sooner, and much more obviously.
Forewarned by Clinton's nightmare, Obama set out to avoid his predecessor's mistakes, especially on health care: He'd be more deferential to Congress; he'd buy off the special interests, keeping Harry and Louise on his side. That is, he learned every lesson but the most important one: Don't support a radical overhaul of American health care as embodied in a sprawling monstrosity of a bill.
Obama's health-care bill has been at least as unpopular as Clinton's. For most of the year, the Democrats poured almost all their energy into it -- even though the economy is the top concern of voters. They kept at it even as public opinion put up a flashing red light. And they resorted to legislative sausage-making so rank it could have been a scene from a PETA anti-meat video.
In short, the push on health care has made the Democrats seem out of touch, imperious and gross -- a corrupt establishment ripe for the toppling after all of four years in power. An unemployment rate of 10 percent, well above the 5.6 percent rate of November 1994, only exacerbates their vulnerability.
All the key conditions are there for a debacle:
* Is the president down in the polls? Check. Obama is far above President Harry Truman's 33 percent approval rating when Democrats lost 55 seats in 1946. But he's been trending downward. President Bill Clinton was roughly even at 45 to 46 percent approval in November 1994. By the end of the weekend, Gallup had Obama roughly even, too, at 48 to 47, his highest disapproval rating yet.
* Has the majority picked up so many seats recently that a correction seems inevitable? Check. When a party has a big tide in congressional elections, it tends to recede. The GOP pickup of 47 seats in 1966 came after Dems swept to an overwhelming 295 seats in the House in 1964. Over the last two elections, Democrats have picked up 54 seats; their total of 257 after the 2008 election is well above their roughly 220-seat average over the last 10 years.
* Are there bunches of Democrats representing conservative districts? Check. The '94 GOP sweep was possible because so many Democrats held naturally Republican ground, particularly in the South. As a result of their big gains in 2006 and '08, Democrats hold nearly 50 seats won both by Bush in 2004 and McCain in 2008, and more than 80 that were won by one of them, reports electoral maven Charlie Cook.
More disturbing than all this for Democrats has to be their erosion among independents and the middle class: They've alienated the great, broad middle of American politics.
The Rasmussen poll had Scott Brown winning independents 73 to 25 percent, even better than the 2-1 GOP edge among independents in last fall's Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races. Republicans won't match those numbers nationally in November -- but if they basically reverse Obama's 52 percent to 44 percent win among independents from 2008, they'll make major gains.
As John Judis, the brilliant political writer for the liberal New Republic points out, Obama has seen his standing among people making $30,000 to $75,000 flop upside down over the last year, from 63 to 17 approval in Pew polls to 53 to 35 percent disapproval. His standing is roughly similar among people over 65 years old and working-class whites -- key constituencies in the midterms.
Mechanics will matter, of course: retirements, fund-raising, recruiting. But if the current environment holds, Democrats will be hard-pressed to hold back the tide no matter what their level of technical proficiency.
How does Obama recover? With the canary bedraggled and lifeless in the coal mine in January, he has ample notice of the danger. But he seems willing to do everything -- reconstitute his political team from 2008, adopt fighting rhetoric, vilify the banks -- except move to the center.
On health care, the ox is in the ditch, as LBJ might say. There's no good, easy way to revive the current bill and Republicans savor every day Democrats will spend trying to do it.
The GOP doesn't mind being called "the party of 'no' " -- in fact, it relishes the label, given the unpopularity of Obama's domestic policies. But that can't be its entire message: The party will need to sketch out a lowest-common-denominator affirmative agenda, in the spirit of 1994's "Contract with America."
The importance of the "Contract" can be exaggerated: It wasn't a detailed governing document. Instead, it promised simply to bring 10 popular initiatives to a vote. But it gave Republicans a dimension beyond mere anti-Clintonism.
Scott Brown and Bob McDonnell in Virginia proved such terrific candidates because they opposed Obama policies while cultivating an unthreatening, solution-oriented tone. They point the way for Republicans nationally.
For Republicans hoping for a repeat of their 1994 triumph, at this early juncture it's so far, so good -- and Thank you, Presi dent Obama.
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For Democrats willing to see what's before their eyes, the nightmare came into sharper focus over the last week. Another 1994 might be in the offing. Back then, the beginning of the end came on a procedural vote. A Democratic majority that had held the House for four decades lost a routine party-line vote on a "rule," a basic measure allowing it to control the House floor.
More than 60 Tea Party leaders from across the country — originating from more than two dozen states — gathered over the weekend in Washington, D.C., to develop 2010 midterm plans at a leadership summit hosted by former Republican Rep. Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks.
Bound by a passion for smaller government, and most recently their opposition to President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, some of the leaders are part of a well-oiled political action committee. Others merely run a Facebook page.
Tea Party activists from Florida spoke of defeating Gov. Charlie Crist, an “enemy of liberty” in his bid for the U.S. Senate. Bob Porto, an activist from Arkansas, said Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s “election year conservative will not work” in his state. He blamed her for her “60th vote” for Obama’s health-care bill.
Others praised “champions of freedom” like Republicans Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Rand Paul in Kentucky, running for Senate seats.
At the summit, FreedomWorks released their targeted list of 65 congressional races across the country. Matt Kibbe, president and chief executive of the group, said members aren’t just going after Democrats, they’re aiming to promote “better candidates” for the Republican primaries too.
They’ve labeled eight congressional races as “top-tier” targets. In Florida, they are gunning for Marco Rubio to win the Republican primary against Crist and in Nevada they want to take down Democratic Sen. Harry Reid. In Pennsylvania, Toomey is their man, as is Paul in Kentucky.
They’ve also targeted Rep. Bobby Bright in Alabama, Rep. Vic Snyder in Arkansas, Rep. Alan Grayson in Florida and Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy in Ohio — all Democratic incumbents.
“We want to see tax and spend incumbents challenged in their districts,” Kibbe said.
Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots said these grassroots activists are more likely to be talking economics than any social or cultural topics that have dominated Republican politics in the past. When she’s asked why the Tea Party groups aren’t bigger proponents of cultural issues — for example, abortion or gay marriage — she said she politely says there are other “great groups” that do that.
Adam Brandon, spokesman for FreedomWorks, concurred, saying that “to be powerful, you have to unify both fiscal and social conservatives” but that “right now where the country is,” people are concerned with economic issues such as “the deficit and the economy.”
Critics of the Tea Party groups have accused the movement of being fabricated from the top down and the weekend’s tightly organized summit begs the question: Is the Tea Party movement a legitimate grassroots group or is it — as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs once said — Astroturf?
Brandon dismissed the notion of the movement being centrally led, saying the organization just views itself “as a service center” for grassroots groups across the country.
“There’s not one but thousands of leaders. I think they look to us because we provide them a service,” he said.
While the organization has put on training events throughout its 20-year history, Brandon said this “is the first leadership summit of the Tea Party era.”
“That’s our model, people come to us and ask for help and we help them with that,” he said.
This weekend’s FreedomWorks conference included workshops for the activists on effective television techniques, the mastering of social media and even “what you can and can’t say: how to stay out of jail this year.”
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More than 60 Tea Party leaders from across the country — originating from more than two dozen states — gathered over the weekend in Washington, D.C., to develop 2010 midterm plans at a leadership summit hosted by former Republican Rep. Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks. Bound by a passion for smaller government, and most recently their opposition to President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, some of the leaders are part of a well-oiled political action committee. Others merely run a Facebook page.
The New York Times reported yesterday that Arizona is pulling out of a cap and trade program called the Western Climate Initiative that includes seven western states and four Canadian provinces.
Citing financial worries, the State of Arizona has backed out of a broad regional effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the West through a cap-and-trade system.
In an executive order issued last week, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, said a cap-and-trade system — which would impose mandatory caps on emissions and allow pollution credits to be traded among companies — would cripple Arizona’s economy.
Utah's House Legislature joined Alaska Sen. Murkowski in urging the EPA to hold it's plans to regulate greenhouse gases under last year's endangerment finding.
Specifically, the resolution “urges the United States Environmental Protection Agency to halt its carbon dioxide reduction policies and programs and with its “Endangerment Finding” and related regulations until a full and independent investigation of the climate data conspiracy and global warming science can be substantiated.
Most state representatives are not only questioning the scientific consensus but also the economic implications of cap and trade or similar carbon dioxide regulations. “I’m afraid of what could happen to our economy, to our rural life, to our agriculture, if such a detrimental policy continues to be pursued for political reasons,” said Rep. Kerry Gibson.
The New York Times reported yesterday that Arizona is pulling out of a cap and trade program called the Western Climate Initiative that includes seven western states and four Canadian provinces.
More good news coming out of the Virginia General Assembly today:
Del. Bob Marshall's health freedom bill, HB 10, passed the House of Delegates 72-26.
The Senate bills on this issue, SB 283, SB 311 and SB 417, all passed the House Commerce and Labor committee by 17-5 margins and are headed to the floor.
At this point, several versions of the Health Care Freedom Act, which would effectively nullify various unconstitutional aspects of proposed federal health care legislation, have passed the Senate (SB417, SB283, SB311), and another has passed the House (HB10). If and when either chamber passes the other's bill, Bob McDonnell will have the privilege of signing Health Care Freedom into law in Virginia.
And, though he may not realize it yet, Gov. McDonnell will also be delivering an important message to the politicians in Washington: Get back into your constitutional box, or We the People will put you there.
More good news coming out of the Virginia General Assembly today:Del. Bob Marshall's health freedom bill, HB 10, passed the House of Delegates 72-26. The Senate bills on this issue, SB 283, SB 311 and SB 417, all passed the House Commerce and Labor committee by 17-5 margins and are headed to the floor.
Washington, DC – Yesterday, a group of anti-smoking advocates unveiled a plan to push for $1 per pack cigarette tax hikes in every state and Washington, DC. The groups claim that the massive tax hike, coming on top of a slew of other federal and state excise taxes, will bring in about $9 billion in new revenue for states that are facing budget crises. Selling this tax hike as a silver bullet for cash-strapped states is at best disingenuous and at worst discriminatory.
Raising cigarette taxes rarely brings in the promised revenue states are anticipating. Instead, they are still left with growing budget holes and less money than they were counting on to fill those gaps. Cigarette tax hikes aren’t exempt from the law of diminishing returns and building budgets on wishful accounting doesn’t make for long-term fiscal health.
The enormous debts that many states are facing will not be served well by an injection of quick cash. Instead, state governments need to kick the spending habit. Making the difficult, but important decisions to cut spending and waste will do more for the bottom line in the long run than this proposed tax hike. Doing anything less will leave states in the same position not far down the road.
In addition, the plan points out that cigarette taxes are a popular among many voters. This comes as no surprise as a majority of voters do not smoke and it is easy for them to assume they are exempt from the tax. This is both right and wrong. Those who don’t smoke won’t be paying this tax directly. Instead, this tax will fall disproportionately on the poor leaving less money for food and other essentials at a time when so many are hurting. At the same time, cigarette taxes hurt small businesses as profits from cigarette sales are lost across state lines, over the internet, or the black market. This means lost jobs, more economic pain, increased crime, and soon the state will be looking for the next group to tax to make ends meet. The collective bad fiscal policy of a state can’t be pawned off onto one unpopular minority.
FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey noted, “Cigarette tax hikes are those quick fixes that are never really quick fixes. It always means just kicking the problem down the road, hopefully, for someone else to tackle. State legislators need to show some courage in the face of these mounting problems, many brought on by past ‘quick fixes,’ and make the tough choices to cut spending to bring real reform and long-term good fiscal policy to their states. Families can’t just go and tax their neighbor when times are tough. Everyone is cutting back and sticking to a budget. There is no reason why these states can’t do the same.”
Washington, DC – Yesterday, a group of anti-smoking advocates unveiled a plan to push for $1 per pack cigarette tax hikes in every state and Washington, DC. The groups claim that the massive tax hike, coming on top of a slew of other federal and state excise taxes, will bring in about $9 billion in new revenue for states that are facing budget crises. Selling this tax hike as a silver bullet for cash-strapped states is at best disingenuous and at worst discriminatory.Raising cigarette taxes rarely brings in the promised revenue states are anticipating. Instead, th
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With the federal deficit projected to reach a staggering $1.6 trillion in 2010, one would think that President Obama's FY 2011 budget would focus on repairing the ailing economy and reducing the national debt. Not so. Instead, the President has proposed a massive $3.83 trillion budget.(1) In fact, the President's FY 2011 budget spends $1.7 trillion more between FY2010-2019 than his FY2010 budget.(2) It also has the potential to run budget deficits up to 49 percent larger than last year's budget proposal.(3)
Obama's tax and spend agenda is expensive. He is expecting the American taxpayers to foot the bill for his vision. In addition to massive tax hikes, the President's plan includes provisions which will further increase skyrocketing deficits and raise the national debt by an additional 6 percent of GDP.(4)
In his budget, President Obama focuses almost all of his deficit reduction efforts on tax increases. Despite the successful employment of tax cuts to pull the American economy out of past recessions (most notably under Kennedy and Reagan), Obama plans to raise taxes for 3.2 million small businesses and upper-income families.(5) His budget includes nearly $1 trillion in tax hikes.(6) The President also plans to remove tax breaks for charitable giving and the mortgage interest deduction for millions of American families.
Worse still, President Obama still supports further government involvement in the health care system and a job-killing cap and trade bill. Both pieces of legislation are only sustainable through massive tax increases. The President's version of health care reform will cost $2.5 trillion in the first 10 years of full implementation (2014-2023)(7) and cap and trade will cost around $800 billion over the next decade.(8) In total, President Obama's tax increases will surpass $2 trillion, a figure that Americans simply cannot afford.
The President’s budget will not only raise taxes, it will also increase the national debt and leave soaring deficits for years to come. In FY2010, the federal deficit is projected to hit a record $1.6 trillion.(9) That is $143 billion higher than the 2009 deficit which was fueled by the recession. His plan will leave deficits above $1 trillion as late as 2020.(10) In 2010, 42 cents of every dollar spent by the federal government will be borrowed from other nations.(11) Even more shocking, the President's budget will permanently expand the federal government by almost 3 percent of GDP and more than double the national debt.(12)
On January 29th, House Republicans met in Baltimore for a question and answer session with President Obama. During that exchange, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) asked the President:
"[In FY 2010] your administration proposed a budget that would triple the national debt over the next ten years... and moved the cost of government to almost 24.5% of the economy... You are soon to submit a new budget, Mr. President. Will that new budget [for FY 2011], like your old budget, triple the national debt and continue to take us down the path of increasing the cost of government to almost 25% of our economy?"(13)
President Obama responded to Hensarling's question by asserting that the figures presented were inaccurate. But, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports show that it is Obama, not Hensarling, who has his facts mixed up. The CBO's analysis of the President's FY 2010 budget reveals that, under Obama's plan, the level of debt held by the public will increase from $5.803 trillion in 2008 to $17.126 trillion in 2019.(14) That means that the debt held by the public will be 2.95 times higher than it was in 2008. The same report also reveals that, by 2019, government outlays will rise to 24.5 percent of GDP.(15)
It is widely believed that Republicans lost control of Congress in 2007 because of their excessive spending. Since the Democrats have taken over, however, they have done little to fix this issue. In fact, they are proposing record levels of spending which will fuel skyrocketing deficits for years to come. In FY 2009 and FY 2010, a Democrat controlled Congress will run monthly deficits that exceed the average annual deficits produced by Republicans from 1995-2007.(16) In the last year that they held control of Congress (FY 2007), the Republicans' annual deficit was $160.7 billion.(17) In October of 2009, the federal deficit was $176 billion.(18) That means that Democrats spent $15.3 billion more in one month than Republicans did in an entire year.
Despite the President's skepticism, the facts that Rep. Hensarling laid out are clear: Obama's FY 2011 budget will lead to massive tax hikes, an increase in the national debt, soaring deficits and even more economic uncertainty in the future. Such proposals will not solve America's economic woes; they will only make them worse. If the President and his allies in Congress are serious about bringing prosperity back to America, then they should consider the approach taken by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) in the mid 1990s which reined in government spending and brought about a budget surplus.
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Florida politics haven't been the same since a fleeting bipartisan semi-hug between President Obama and Gov. Charlie Crist at a stimulus rally in Fort Myers one year ago today.
National politics have changed as well — and the same Fort Myers event provided a little-noticed sneak preview of the tea party protests that have since altered that landscape.
Outside the Harborside Event Center that day was a woman named Mary Rakovich who was fresh off a few hours of activist training from the Washington-based conservative group FreedomWorks. She had recruited six to 10 people to carry signs ridiculing the stimulus bill that Obama and Crist were promoting inside.
The stimulus foes were outnumbered by anti-abortion protesters. But they attracted the notice of Fox News, and Rakovich was interviewed live that afternoon.
Nine days later, with CNBC's Rick Santelli's rant heard 'round the world, the term "tea party" would become indelibly attached to such protests.
Even without the label, some now-familiar elements of the tea party movement were present that day in Fort Myers: citizen outrage at federal spending, some coaching from a national conservative organization and the validating presence of cable TV cameras.
"It was actually the first protest of President Obama's administration that we know of. It was the first protest of what became the tea party movement," said Brendan Steinhauser, the director of state and federal campaigns for FreedomWorks.
FreedomWorks, chaired by lobbyist and former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, has been an influential presence in the tea party movement, offering training and advice and maintaining contact with thousands of activists across the nation.
Despite the national group's role, Rakovich and other activists say their protests are authentic and homegrown.
"It's all real people — just regular everyday people," said Rakovich, who since her Fort Myers debut has organized rallies in Lee County that drew hundreds.
"This is true grass-roots," says Tom Gaitens, an Apollo Beach commodities trader who said he gets paid $250 a month as a FreedomWorks organizer in Florida.
"I don't hold anybody's hand. I don't light a fire. … The fire's already there. We just help provide some direction to the flames," Gaitens said.
Rakovich, 52, is a Michigan native who moved to Fort Myers in 2006 after being laid off from an electrical engineer's job in the auto industry. She said she never paid much attention to politics until 2008, when she became alarmed by the anti-American pronouncements of then-candidate Obama's longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Her interest soon expanded to other issues, including concern about federal deficits and debt and an embrace of limited-government philosophy. She volunteered for GOP presidential nominee John McCain's campaign, though she wished McCain were more conservative.
She also discovered FreedomWorks on the Internet and learned the group was putting on a training seminar for activists in Tampa in January 2009. Rakovich and her husband, Ron, joined about 80 people for the 2½ -hour session. They got advice on writing letters to the editor, calling talk radio shows and preparing press releases. Aspiring activists were also encouraged to use Facebook and Twitter and social-networking sites to organize communities of "like-minded people."
Less than two weeks after the seminar, the White House announced Obama's trip to Fort Myers, his second outside-the-Beltway public appearance as president.
Rakovich said she and her husband were debating whether to organize a protest when Steinhauser called to encourage them.
"He gave me the real confidence to do it," Rakovich said. "He said, 'If you get two of you, you're good to go.' "
Rakovich said she stayed up late the night before Obama's appearance, reading up on specific provisions of the stimulus bill and hand-lettering signs. She said Steinhauser and Gaitens advised her to focus on policy rather than Obama.
"Real Jobs, Not Pork" said one sign, with a photo of a pig on it. Other signs said "Stop Selling Our Children's Future" and "Not Pork? $850 Million for Amtrak."
The fact that there were fewer than a dozen protesters didn't matter, Gaitens said.
"The size was never as important as being there. The reality is, if no one shows up, people believe it's 100 percent approval. If a handful of protesters show up, then there's a juxtaposition of one side versus another," Gaitens said.
Rakovich talked to some local reporters during the day and gave out her cellphone number. Then, after Obama and Crist had left and as she was preparing to go home, someone from Fox News called asking to set up a live interview.
Rakovich's brief appearance on national TV encouraged other activists around the United States and helped build early momentum for tea party protests, Steinhauser said.
"That was the beginning of the whole thing — people watching what other people were doing and saying, 'Hey, I can do that, too,' " Steinhauser said.
A year after her debut as a protest organizer, Rakovich plans to return to the Harborside Event Center tonight. FreedomWorks Chairman Armey will be there for a rally with Marco Rubio, who has criticized Republican U.S. Senate primary rival Crist for his stimulus cheerleading last year.
Pondering the tea party movement's growth over the past year from a few protesters to a potent political force, Rakovich said: "I feel good that I've had a part in helping people understand that they can do something."
Florida politics haven't been the same since a fleeting bipartisan semi-hug between President Obama and Gov. Charlie Crist at a stimulus rally in Fort Myers one year ago today. National politics have changed as well — and the same Fort Myers event provided a little-noticed sneak preview of the tea party protests that have since altered that landscape.
The squabbles that erupted over this weekend's Nashville gathering reflect larger challenges facing a hot political phenomenon. Tea Party members drew headlines last summer with protests over health care legislation at congressional town hall meetings and a September rally against big government, held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, which attracted thousands.
That's just one of many organizations that sprang up under the "Tea Party" name after CNBC reporter Rick Santelli delivered an anti-government rant on TV last Feb. 19.
To whoops and applause from traders on the floor of theChicago Mercantile Exchange, Santelli argued that President Obama's bill aimed at reducing foreclosures would force fiscally responsible Americans to bail out people who bought more house than they could afford. "We're thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July," Santelli added.
Santelli was kidding, but his words galvanized conservative activists. Within hours, Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity, another conservative think tank, had registered a website called taxpayerteaparty.com.
"It was a cathartic moment for a lot of people," Kerpen said.
Since then, more than 3,200 websites containing the words "tea party," have been registered with Go Daddy, which calls itself the world's largest Internet domain name provider, said company spokeswoman Elizabeth Driscoll. Five organizations using the name "Tea Party" have registered political action committees with the Federal Election Commission.
The different groups are the movement's strength, Tea Party enthusiasts argue. "It really is a grass-roots movement," says Tom Gaitens, a FreedomWorks field coordinator who has worked with a number of Tea Party groups in Florida. "They want to remain local."
The disdain for centralized authority that has given the Tea Party movement much of its energy also has led to disputes over who has claim to the Tea Party name.
• In Tennessee, concerns about the $549 registration fee at the Tea Party convention prompted Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., to cancel appearances. Palin, in a USA TODAY column, said she "thought long and hard" about participating. The former Alaska governor said she will donate her speaking fee "right back to the cause." She and event organizers will neither confirm nor deny several news reports — including on Fox News, where she works as a commentator — that put her fee at $100,000.
• In Texas, activists with Tea Party links are split in the Republican primary for governor. Armey is backing Sen.Kay Bailey Hutchison's challenge to Gov. Rick Perry in the March 2 primary. Palin campaigns Sunday for Perry. Debra Medina, a former GOP county chairwoman with a libertarian platform, has been working the Tea Party circuit as she seeks the GOP nomination.
Meanwhile, Dale Robertson, who owns the website TeaParty.org, has filed papers to run as an independent. He was repudiated by the Houston Tea Party Society after being photographed holding up a sign with a racial epithet. He does not deny carrying the sign.
• In Florida, there is a legal dispute over the Tea Party name. Orlando lawyer Fred O'Neal, who registered a third political party under the Tea Party banner, is being sued by local Tea Party chapters. "This has caused confusion amongst our members," said Everett Wilkinson, chairman of the South Florida Tea Party and a plaintiff in the case.
The family feuds underscore the delicate task ahead for Republicans who want to tame a tiger that so far has refused to be led. Bob Porto, a Tea Party activist from Little Rock, said his chapter is steering clear of political parties to avoid becoming "their rent-a-sticks."
Most political conventions are designed to showcase party unity, but the National Tea Party convention where Sarah Palin is to speak Saturday is sending a very different message.
According to recent unemployment reports, an additional 20,000 jobs were lost in January. Despite this loss, the unemployment rate declined from 10 percent to 9.7 percent. It is important to note that the unemployment rate does not account for any discouraged potential workers who are not actively seeking unemployment. More than half a million discouraged workers have left the job market in the past few months.
According to Obama, the January job reports were:
a cause for hope.
However, it seems that the only ones that should be hopeful about their future job prospects are those seeking federal government employment. Tad DeHaven, a scholar at the Cato Institute, explains that:
According to the president’s new budget, federal civilian employment in the executive branch will be 15 percent higher in 2011 than it was in 2007.
In addition, DeHaven includes that:
Instead of fostering private sector growth, the administration is fostering government growth at the expense of the private sector.
This trend is unsustainable. Americans cannot afford to lose 20,000 jobs every month. In order to reverse the current economic downturn, the focus needs to be on creating private-sector jobs. The Heritage Foundation has suggestions on how Congress can spur private-sector job growth:
Strongly consider repealing Section 404 of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, a provision that substantially raises business costs for little economic benefit.
Relax limitations on domestic energy development.
Remove prevailing wage restrictions on government construction contractors to immediately create 160,000 new construction jobs.
Reform the tort system to reduce the unnecessary drag it places on the economy. The direct cost of unnecessary litigation drains $130 billion from the economy each year, with indirect costs being far higher.
An additional 20,000 Americans losing their jobs in one month is nothing to be hopeful about. Since the recession began, in December 2007, Americans have lost a total of 8.4 million jobs. Private-sector job growth must be stimulated through lowering taxes and decreasing excessive government spending.
According to recent unemployment reports, an additional 20,000 jobs were lost in January. Despite this loss, the unemployment rate declined from 10 percent to 9.7 percent. It is important to note that the unemployment rate does not account for any discouraged potential workers who are not actively seeking unemployment.