TAMPA, Fla. — At River Church Tampa, a few miles east of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention, a different type of unifying event was taking place.
The Unity Rally 2012, hosted by the TeaParty.net, Job Creator Solutions, and the Western Representation PAC took place on Sunday night before the official (and now postponed) start of the Republican Party’s convention. While the large, nondenominational church was packed with enthusiastic supporters of the tea party movement and the defeat of President Obama, fervor for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney was not so palpable.
“Well, you’ve got to vote, it’s not a matter of excited, it’s a matter of necessity. … We’ve got to get this man out of office,” said Jerry Edwards, a member of Golden Isles tea party in Georgia.
“I like Ryan,” one attendee told ABC News when asked how she felt about the Republican ticket.
Tea party leaders, including Rep. Michele Bachmann and former presidential candidate Herman Cain, and radio personality Neal Boortz spoke at the rally. The Romney campaign sent a surrogate in the form of Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Chaffetz received a strong welcome when he came on stage, but when he was announced as a Romney rep applause died down. Chaffetz spoke about Romney’s success in turning around the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, and spoke about the former governor’s success in curbing spending in Massachusetts.
Chaffetz than talked about the importance of defeating Barack Obama.
“Listen, we have an opportunity before us. … I have spent hours campaigning for Mitt, not only because I think he’s the right guy for right now, but also because I want to defeat Barack Obama,” Chaffetz told the audience.
Although several of the speakers, such as Bachmann and Chaffetz, were also in town for the GOP convention, the same was not necessarily true for many of the others.
“We’re here for this event, we’re heading back early tomorrow morning,” Sam Burgiuerex, a tea party supporter from New Orleans said.
The winds of Isaac weren’t the reason for Burgiuerex’s scheduling.
“We’re principally here for support of this movement, the tea party movement, which is about fiscal responsibility, about principles, about honoring our government.”
Edwards, who was in town with a group of about 56 representatives, said his Golden Isles group was also planning to leave after the rally, but not because of Isaac.
“We’re from Georgia. We’ve had plenty of hurricanes where we came from. … I’m 78 years old. I’ve never run from a hurricane yet,” Edwards said.