TAMPA, Fla. – Former GOP presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain led hundreds of Tea Party activists Sunday in asserting the conservative movement’s presence before the official start of the Republican National Convention.
“This is what the Tea Party is not,” Bachmann blasted in a fiery address to roughly 500 Tea Party supporters, some dressed in traditional colonial costume. “We are not an unwanted second-class political party. We are the conscience of the United States Constitution. And we won’t apologize for that.”
The “Unity Rally 2012,” held inside the Rivers Church in Tampa, was headlined by Tea Party favorites Bachmann and Cain and included speeches from Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz and other like-minded conservatives.
While the rally was intended to unite behind the Republican presidential ticket, the red meat-packed speeches were more focused on berating President Obama rather than touting the specific policies put forth by Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
“I want you to know how incredibly successful you have been as a movement,” Bachmann, R-Minn., told the crowd.
Bachmann, who ran for her party’s presidential nomination in the Republican primaries, went on to criticize the policies of the Obama administration, and again accused the president of being a socialist, saying, “We’re not going to stand by and see socialism implemented in our country.”
Cain, a former pizza chain executive and presidential contender, also praised the Tea Party for its influence in shaping the GOP platform and for sending “a message” to both the Republican Party and the Obama administration.
“You want to know what the message is – we the people are still in charge of this country!” he boomed.
In a single reference to Romney, Bachmann applauded him for his campaign promise to repeal Obama’s sweeping health care overhaul – a law the Democrats claim was modeled after the health care system Romney implemented when he was governor of Massachusetts.
“The leader of the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, has said -- without batting an eyelash -- on Day One, as president he will repeal ObamaCare!” Bachmann said.
Cain also mentioned Romney by name when he cited a poll that found no African-Americans supported Romney.
“There were zero black people who would vote for Mitt Romney,” Cain said the poll concluded. “My response was, I’m not a zero!”
Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.