When Republican Dede Scozzafava suspended her campaign in New York's 23rd congressional district this weekend, it came completely out of left field...or in this case, right field, for the political establishment.
In a matter of weeks, the congressional race in the relatively obscure upstate New York district has become the epicenter of what some are calling a "civil war" over the soul of the Republican Party and what it should stand for in the Obama era.
But to the conservative grass roots organization FreedomWorks, the upheaval in New York's 23rd district wasn't a surprise at all -- but rather, the pinnacle of months of planning, building a movement to shape the future of the GOP.
FreedomWorks, which started in 2004, is dedicated to lower taxes and less government, and claims to have 400,000 members. They aspire to be the equivalent of MoveOn.org for the right, It is an organization with the power to purge moderates in the GOP and promote what they deem to be "pure" conservatives.
The group's efforts made national headlines last spring when the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group tapped into public discontent, organizing tea parties on April 15, to protest taxpayer funds being used for government bailouts.
While tea parties -- an echo of America's patriot past -- seemed almost comic to some, something very real began to happen in public opinion and the polls: confidence in President Obama and his policies slowly eroded and anger erupted at town hall meetings during the congressional recess.
Between the discontent over the Wall Street bailout, economic stimulus, immigration, and health care, conservatives unleashed their grievances at Obama in a Sept. 2009 rally in the nation's capital. But was it the beginning of a true mass movement, or the culmination of a summer of rage on the right?
"Nightline" went to South Florida to see at the ground level what the grass-roots movement FreedomWorks is really about and to address critics' contention that it's a corporate front -- an "AstroTurf" movement -- not from the bottom, up.
On the patio of the Yard House restaurant in West Palm Beach, Fla., over 100 locals gathered to denounce health care reform, the Wall Street bailout, the economic stimulus, taxes, deficits and a lot more.
"I guess [the rally is] to stop Congress from turning us into a socialist nation," said rally attendee Ray Palmer. "I know they say this is not socialism, but when a government takes over the finance, insurance industry -- you know, I am a fiscal conservative -- we have to get back to the Constitution."
Former House Majority Leader and Texan Dick Armey is the chairman of FreedomWorks, and has been credited with revitalizing the group, and mobilizing conservatives across the country to come out to rallies in the name of freedom.
"The current movement that you see right now ... is the greatest grass roots mobilization of people of concern and intention on economic issues that I've ever seen," he said.
"Nightline" spoke with Armey at an opulent beachfront condo of one of FreedomWorks' backers. It's a well-funded group, but its corporate donors were not something Armey wanted to discuss.
"We never discuss our contributors," he said. "As we have a grass roots organization, we by and large have grass roots donorship."