Rick Santelli: Campaign Meme?

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During campaign season, when the political microscope is turned to high power, anything mildly outrageous can be a theme for a day. Could CNBC's Rick Santelli be one of those themes for the GOP?

Two websites and a petition have sprung up since Santelli's now widely publicized on-air rant yesterday, in a pit of traders on the floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, against President Obama's $75 billion plan to help struggling homeowners refinance, all in favor of Santelli's proposal for a Chicago Tea Party in July.

"We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that wanna show up to Lake Michigan, I'm organizing," Santelli fumed yesterday. "We're gonna be dumping in some derivative securities, what do you think about that?"

Turns out Santelli may not be the one organizing after all: the conservative American Free Market Fund's American Future Fund's petition, launched yesterday afternoon, invites signers to attend such a party in Chicago in July. 3,500 people have pledged to attend, the group says, and the idea of busing people in has been floated. That's on top of two smaller sites dedicated to promoting Santelli's suggestion.

"The Chicago Tea Party of 2009 will reinvigorate that American and Patriotic spirit; one that demands respect for individual rights and property," one of the sites, www.reteaparty.com, promises.

Conservative outcry over Obama's economic policies appears to be real. Prominent blogger Michelle Malkin has promoted several small protests against the stimulus, drawing 500 protesters (by her estimate) in Denver on the day Obama signed it. Only 28 percent of Republicans supported Obama's stimulus according to Gallup, and 61 percent oppose his mortgage plan according to Rasmussen. The tops of all three network newscasts last night made mention of Santelli or related objections, and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) -- one of three Republicans in Congress to vote for the stimulus -- was jeered by protesters for the vote yesterday at a press conference in his home state.

Santelli's complaint has several built-in elements of a marketing plan: a catch phrase, an upcoming event, and an easily distributable video. If this were October, politicians would be all over the Chicago Tea Party already. Depending on how the mortgage plan continues to be received by the public (45 percent oppose the idea while 38 percent support it, according to Rasmussen), the political world may not have heard the last of Rick Santelli.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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