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'National Tea Party Unity Convention' canceled. Is the movement slipping?

If anything, cancellation of the National Tea Party Unity Convention may indicate the strength and vastness of the movement. Like Democrats and Republicans, 'tea partyers' are numerous enough to justify infighting.

By Staff writer / September 24, 2010

Demonstrators hold signs near the Washington Monument during a march by supporters of the conservative 'tea party' movement in Washington on Sept. 12. Several thousand people gathered for the march to the US Capitol.

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What had been booked as a major "tea party" event has been canceled. But does that mean the political insurgency that’s got both major parties rattled is somehow slipping?

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Not at all. If anything, it may indicate the strength and vastness of a diverse movement that has a strong grass-roots element while also enjoying the financial backing of special interests, conservative billionaires, and longtime GOP operatives. Like Democrats and Republicans, tea partyers are numerous enough to justify infighting.

The “National Tea Party Unity Convention” was supposed to be held next month in Las Vegas – a follow-up to last February’s convention in Nashville, where Sarah Palin wowed a crowd willing to pay $349 to hear her (or $549 for the full three-day event). But this week, supporters were told by e-mail that “the convention is just not going to happen.”

IN PICTURES: Tea Parties

Both conventions were organized by the Tea Party Nation, a social networking site for conservative political activists started in 2009 by Judson Phillips, a former assistant district attorney in Tennessee.

That first convention was controversial within the tea party movement. Several tea party-related organizations pulled out over the event’s questionable for-profit financing. At the time, Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com and a conservative contributor to CNN, wrote that it “smells scammy.”

Intramural squabbling

A few months later, the Tea Party Nation squabbled with the Tea Party Express over Nevada’s GOP primary race for the US Senate, which eventually went to Sharron Angle. Ms. Angle was supposed to be featured at the October “unity convention” along with conservative celebrities Lou Dobbs, Joseph Farah, and Andrew Breitbart.

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