By Stephanie Griffith — THE Republican National Convention here will be shortened one day by bad weather, but activists from the conservative Tea Party movement heralded advancing Tropical Storm Isaac as a timely symbol of big changes ahead after November's election, when they vow to reclaim the White House.
"We are looking at a hurricane here in Florida," said Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party founder and conservative member of the House of Representatives, late on Sunday to a rally conservatives and Tea Party faithful on the margins of the convention. "We're looking at a political hurricane," she said in a speech electrifying her supporters. "We're looking at a spiritual hurricane," she said, further whipping up the crowd.
The Tea Party — a powerful faction Republican faction responsible in large part for the return of the House of Representatives to Republican control in 2010 — is to play a relatively small role at this week's convention, which has been curtailed from a four-day gathering to just three here in the Gulf Coast city of Tampa.
But they made a show of force at the afternoon and evening of rallies and prayer meetings on Sunday at a local mega-church — an event meant to rouse the support of this most conservative of the Republican party's faithful.
"It's time for each of us to show up and suit up and stand up," Bachmann exhorted the crowd, to thunderous applause.
The meeting here, several miles away from the official Republican convention events downtown, provided a needed outlet for conservatives who have always been lukewarm towards Mitt Romney, who this week will formally named the party's presidential nominee.
The pre-convention gathering at The River at Tampa Bay Church, which was billed as a "unity rally," gave conservatives a chance to celebrate their considerable clout in the Republican party after scarcely three years' existence.