Tea Party Movement Sparks National Convention

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The big event being billed as the first National Tea Party Convention is underway in Nashville, Tenn.

Sarah Palin will be the keynote speaker, but the event is not without controversy.

Tea Party Nation, sponsor of the National Tea Party Convention, is a for-profit group and charged attendees more than $500. Palin's keynote speaking fee is $100,000.

That's left many of the hundreds of other Tea Party groups around the nation saying no way-- that this type of event shouldn't be for profit or cost so much.

No matter the controversy, there's no denying this movement is the center of gravity in American politics today.

Just ask Dick Armey, the former GOP leader who now chairs the Tea Party organizing group Freedom Works.

"The fact of the matter is these folks are the most effective force in politics in America today because they're the one force that has a set of common commitments," he said. "They don't need national leadership because they're led by great ideas."

Armey added that people shouldn't buy into the media caricature of the group of activists.

"There as ordinary as you can find," he said. "These are not people sitting around in their basements with their Bibles and guns gathered around looking for the invasion. These are real ordinary folks."

Armey's been on a crusade to get the Republicans back to their fiscal discipline roots-- a point he made at the RNC meetings last week in Hawaii.

"They go through more identity crises than the average college sophomore," he said. "They just don't seem to be able to understand and stay consistently devoted to who they are."

The challenge for Republicans is to find a way to secure tea party movement votes. Political strategist Ralph Reed says it's possible.

"I've never seen grassroots conservatives this fired up and this anxious to get to the polls," he said. "It's going to be a big big year for the Republicans."

But not without support from Tea Partiers. This week's convention is just one sign of the grand movement.

"I was there in '94. I was at the Christian Coalition at the time. I was there in '80. I was a leader in youth for Reagan. This is bigger," Reed added.

The Tea Party convention this weekend will be full of speakers and seminars, including "Why Christians Must Engage" hosted by Rick Scarborough.

Other speakers include conservative Judge Roy Moore and former House member Tom Tancredo.

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