What's the Future of the Tea Party?

(AP)
By CBS Radio News correspondent Steve Kathan, reporting from Nashville, Tenn.

As one man here put it, the Tea Party goal is to "kick out all of the political class… even those we like." He spoke while wearing a colonial outfit and a three corner hat, symbolic of Revolutionary War times.

(at left, Mark Skoda of the Memphis Tea Party addresses attendees of the convention)

To be sure, there are colorful characters here at the first national Tea Party convention in Nashville, and even some dressed in ordinary sweatshirts and khakis are calling for a "second" revolution too.

The organizers say it's all about cultivating the political anger that's out there and generating it to power political change. For sure, they don't like Obama Democrats, and some don't like Republicans.

But when talk turns to the possibility of a third party, a Tea Party, that's when people in the movement seem to get queasy. Tea Partiers almost unanimously say it's not their goal. Something that is organized and national seems the very antithesis of what they're about -- being grass roots, staying local, more states rights, and less federal government.

So if this convention is simply about meeting and learning and furthering an idea, where does it all go from here?

Many intend to use their energy to try to impact the midterm elections this fall. In fact, some disaffected Republicans are here, looking to run as Independents with Tea Party backing.

Peyton Lumpkin, hoping to unseat Republican Rep. Ron Paul in Texas, is handing out business cards to anyone who will take one. He even hopes to meet Sarah Palin in Nashville, and gain an endorsement.

(AP)
And at this convention without a real leader, Palin seems to be willing to step into the vacuum. When she speaks here Saturday night to close the convention, rock star treatment and adulation are sure to be all around. She's spoken glowingly of the Tea Party movement, and her political future, if she has or wants one, may be tied to the very activists in this big hotel ballroom.

But the Tea Partiers say while they may like the former Alaska governor, they're content without a leader. They like being rebels with a cause, who answer to no one.

After all of their noisy outdoor protests, they've come inside this weekend in Nashville. One of the organizers says the movement is "growing up." But if adulthood means a new national political "organization", it seems most of these folks would rather remain adolescents with attitude.

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  • Steve Kathan

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