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.
"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.
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