Phillips, the conference organizer, said Thursday that he wants the Tea Party movement to win Congress for conservatives in 2010.
Such an undefined goal may portray the trouble the Tea Party movement could face in accomplishing its goals electorally.
Tim Peak, the charter school director, lives in a state that will play host to one of 2010's most closely watched Republican Senate primaries. Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth hopes Tea Party populism will propel him to the Republican nomination for a seat held since 1987 by McCain, a man long reviled by the most conservative members of his party.
But Peak, who came to the registration desk at this convention wearing a collared shirt that included a print of the Declaration of Independence matted over a U.S. flag, said he's no fan of McCain, but he won't be supporting his challenger, either.
"He's a politician," Peak said of Hayworth.
Disdain for the political establishment is matched at this convention only by antipathy toward the media. Several people refused to give their full names for this article, while others declined to speak on the record altogether.
A woman from the Chicago area who would only allow herself to be quoted as "Amy" said it's important that Tea Party activists make their voices heard.
"We elect [politicians] to represent us, not to rule us," she said. "And if they're passing things that we are not happy with or we don't think are good for the country, we need to step up and say, 'Wait a minute.'"
Many, such as Jim and Julie Dam of Avon, Indiana, had never been motivated to speak their minds before.
"We're not really political people," Jim Dam said. "We just vote like everybody else. But now, the way this administration is going, the way this country is going, it's getting scary.
His wife said, "We do not want the government in our health care. We do not want the government taxing us to death."
The couple drove 300 miles from their home outside Indianapolis to be here.
Tania Ash, a housewife from outside Orlando, said, "There's never been an urgency to make sure that our government was doing the right thing as there is now.
"You just don't shove things down people's throats," said Ash, who decried the closed-door deals and rushed votes that have marked the first year of Barack Obama's presidency. "You just don't do that. That's not what our constitution's all about."
Ash brought a poster-size picture of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who will deliver the keynote speech at a banquet here Saturday night. The back of the poster was covered in signatures by fellow activists that Ash has met at the eight Tea Party events she has attended in the past year, including one in Washington, D.C., in September.
Ash's husband lost his job a year ago. She said the couple has no health insurance as a result.
"I would love to have free health care coverage," she said. "I don't have any right now. But nothing is free. We [as a country] can't afford it."
Ash said she hopes to learn this weekend how to better network with fellow activists, as she considers a run for the Florida Statehouse.
Tea Party activists unite around what they're against. The movement has no clear platform, other than a list of grievances -- big Government, out of control spending, erosion of freedoms -- and an often-expressed desire to "take our country back."