How Great Thou Art

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 26 2012 8:43 PM

How Great Thou Art

TAMPA -- Revival Ministries International is a sort of megachurch archipalego between the highways that separate the suburbs of this city from the exurbs -- Brandon, Lake Weeks, Shangri-La. On Sunday night, the largest sanctuary in the complex was given over to "Unity Rally 2012," a project of the buzz-crazed TheTeaParty.net, which would bring some beloved movement stars to the outskirts of the convention. Herman Cain! Michele Bachmann! Rebecca Kleefisch! (Google her.)

I walked past a sign warning parishoners to bring NO DRINKS IN THE SANCTUARY and saw some of those famous, hyper-realist paintings that portray Barack Obama and other villains doing harm to the Constitution.

"I think I've talked to the painter before," I said.

"Oh, you have?" said the man behind the paintings.

He was the painter, John McNaughton.

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"They flew me out here from Utah," said McNaughton. "I'm just in town through Wednesday, going to a 9-12 meeting, some more stuff like that." He wasn't going to the convention, though he'd come around to the Romney-Ryan ticket. "Ron Paul was my first choice," he said, "but America's not ready for Ron Paul. We're on a train headed downhill, and Romney will slow it. Ron Paul would stop it, but if you stop something moving that fast, people get hurt."

I returned to the sanctuary, where a parade of Republican politicians were explicitly telling a crowd -- a stars-n-stripes-wavin', Gadsden-flag-wavin' crowd -- to vote for Mitt Romney, and to be sure that the Tea Party's relevance wasn't waning. "We are not an unwanted, second-class political party," said Bachmann.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.