RICHMOND - I'm at the Richmond Convention Center covering the Virginia Tea Party Convention -- according to organizers, the biggest convention in the movement's history, with 2300 tickets sold. And it feels big, with two exhibit halls, attendees walking up and down the halls trying to find breakout sessions, and advertisements for the evening "Freedom Lovers Extravaganza" ("It's not just martinis at this lounge? Come take in the Canadian sensation John Morello in an 'Old Vegas' style tribute to Dean Martin.").
Another thing you see: A lot of support, vocal and visual, for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. On one level that shouldn't be a surprise, because Cuccinelli works down the street. But there's no evident enthusiasm for the Virginia Republican that pundits look at as a possible national candidate, Gov. Bob McDonnell. On the way inside, actually, I was handed a leaflet from the Virginia Taxpayers Association blasting McDonnell for "accepting Obama's appointment to the unlawful, unconstitutional Council of Governors" because "it ensures endorsement of him for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination by the ultra secret, ultra powerful international Bilderberg Group."
None of that for Cuccinelli. Some attendees are wearing stickers with the slogan "Our Voice: Ken Cuccinelli for President." McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling are on a panel about "state government reform" today, while Cuccinelli is part of a "national policy forum tomorrow, alongside George Allen, Rick Santorum, and Congressmen Ron Paul and Steve King. In the opening session, Cuccinelli's name elicited instant cheers -- cheers that got louder when his lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act was mentioned. And Cuccinelli volunteers are working the halls, handing out fliers that thank people for attending the convention.
"Over the course of the year," writes Cuccinelli, "through grassroots activism, your work and the work of thousands of others has gone a long way to ensure that we pick up seats in this year's mid-term elections, and has shaped the choice of our candidates as well."
The flier is "paid for and authorized by Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General." He is up for re-election in 2013.