Steele And The Tea Partiers
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele will meet with Tea Party activists today in DC, The Washington Post reports: it's the first time a group of tea partiers has sat down with GOP party leadership. About 50 of them have traveled to DC for the meeting, which was organized by the leader of a Tea Party group in South Florida. Before anyone gets too excited about this as the beginning of the GOP's consumption of the Tea Party movement into its ranks (which may or may not happen eventually) note that the Tea Party movement doesn't actually have a head, so to speak, so the effect of a meeting--even with 50 activists--on the movement as a whole is an open question. Tea partiers have had contact with the conservative establishment in DC, which keeps in contact with leaders of the Republican Party, but so far activists have looked to voice complaints with the GOP, not take orders from it.
It is, however, a relationship the GOP has wanted to develop: its candidates are seeking out the backing of Tea Party activists in House races across the country, and the GOP as a whole needs to capitalize on conservative grassroots energy (while not letting it drive the party too far to the right) if it's going to succeed in the next two election cycles. In all, it might be a more important meeting for Steele than for the activists.