The Chicago Tea Party hopes their regional convention, "TeaCon 2011," will carry enough cache to win over the Republican presidential candidates they've invited to the two-day event at the end of September.
TeaCon organizers have invited all of the declared presidential candidates to participate in 20 minute interviews during a "Town Hall Meeting" that will include questions from guests, according to the event's Meetup.com profile. They will also conduct a presidential straw poll
“[Y]ou will be able to submit questions the media won’t ask and get answers the media can't get,” promises the promo on Meetup.com. “This will be an opportunity for tea party groups from across the Midwest to voice our choice on who should be the next President of the United States. The 2012 election is too important to let the political establishment and mainstream media pick our candidate.”
Headlining the event are TeaCon's three announced keynote speakers: conservative journalist Andrew Breitbart opens the event with conservative comedian and Fox News contributor Steven Crowder Friday night, Tea Party radio host and CNN contributor Dana Loesch will speak over breakfast, and the event ends Saturday with "Dinner with Glenn Beck," which charges $99 admission separate from the events' $159 price tag, according to the event website.
No candidate has come forward with a public response yet to the offer, but Illinois' Tea Party doesn't have a history of leveraging game-changing political power. Not only is President Barack Obama's home state expected to support its local hero, but Republican candidates in the state have a history of skipping Tea Party events that has never hurt them.
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, who beat Democrat Alexi Giannoulias last year for Obama's old senate seat, blew off Right Nation, the Tea Party's comparable convention last fall. Some called out the move as evidence that Kirk was "not a real conservative." While running for governor, State Senator Bill Brady did make an appearance--and a five-minute speech--at Right Nation, which was cited as a significant turn-off to many Illinois voters who, in turn, elected Pat Quinn.
Beck and Breitbart also headlined Right Nation last September.