The Tea Party movement roars into the Republican presidential spotlight tonight, as grassroots conservative-coalition members are scheduled to question GOP candidates at a Tampa, Fla., debate.
The two-hour debate, co-sponsored by the Tea Party Express and CNN, promises to include some topics that rarely come up in national political forums, such as the candidates’ views of the Constitution and the Federal Reserve.
The debate, which begins at 8 p.m., will be closely watched because the Tea Party movement, through a loose collection of grassroots groups barely two years old, helped elect scores of Republicans to Congress last year.
This year, Republican presidential candidates are aggressively courting the movement’s eager-to-work followers and trying to tap into their influential social and fundraising networks.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the founder of the House of Representatives Tea Party Caucus and other diehard conservatives are already activists’ favorites. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman are not; they’re perceived as too moderate and compromising.