In it, but not of it. TPM DC
Bachmann (R-MN) came up with the idea last Thursday and announced it Friday night.
Saturday morning, Republican members started spreading the word among one another and leadership, Rep. Steve King and others decided to participate. All week leadership staffers put together the details and speaking program, while others pulled permits and got the sound system organized. (The undisclosed costs will be shared among several Republican offices.)
Throughout the week, some members announced the would participate but Bachmann took the lead with generating press and several mom groups took up her cause and organized buses to Washington.
"At first, we were hoping for 500 people, we didn't try to hype up expectations," Buck said. "It took a lot of people by surprise to see all these folks come out."
Somewhere in the neighborhood of between 8,000 and 10,000 people turned out - many organized through state parties and conservative groups but plenty on their own time and dime.
As TPMDC reported earlier, they are planning another one for tomorrow.
A GOP aide said the conference is grateful for Bachmann's efforts, and that Republicans credit her with helping excite the base in a way that could help the party in 2010.
"She is very helpful and very talented in getting those folks energized and I don't think our conference would be complete without her," the aide said.
Republicans consider her a "firebrand," and some are still "skittish" about the things she says and does but find her a unique asset for her ability to attract attention.
Yesterday's event had coattails as well, with Republican political candidates aiming to get the Tea Party seal of approval.
While at the rally, TPMDC interviewed Rob Merkle, who wants to challenge Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT).
Merkle delivered 400 petitions to Himes' office from the Congressional district that ask he vote to keep the government out of health care decisions.
"I believe in stopping health care," Merkle told TPMDC. "People don't want it."
He accused Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of trying to "marginalize" tea partiers as fringe.
"I don't detect a lot of anger, what I detect is frustration," he said. "These are normal every day Americans just trying to have their voices heard."