ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Thousands of determined tea party activists converged in a park in America's oldest city Saturday and heard a succession of Republican candidates promise to heed their demands for less government and lower taxes.
Small-business owners, retirees, veterans and even government workers spoke with one voice: They want ideological purity from politicians.
They want government to take less of their money and leave them alone.
They said they are sick of runaway deficits, career politicians and RINOs (Republicans in name only) who say all the right things while they're running but fail to do what they say once they're in office.
They said the political elites have no idea how strongly everyday people feel that the government is broken and America is not living up to people's expectations.
The four-hour "Forward with the Constitution Rally" was organized by tea party groups in an 11-county region in northeast Florida, and was far and away the largest event of the 2010 campaign season in Florida.
People brought folding chairs and faced a stage fashioned with wooden boxes labeled "tea" at Francis Field, a venue used mainly for ethnic food festivals and other community events. If the rally had a headliner, it was Marco Rubio, the U.S. Senate candidate who received a thunderous welcome at high noon under a brilliant sun.
"This election is nothing less than a referendum of our identity as a nation and as a people," Rubio said, calling 2010 an historic moment "when people were pushed to the brink." When he complained of go-along-to-get-along Republican politicians, people in the audience chimed in, "That's right."
Rubio, who faces Democrat Kendrick Meek and Gov. Charlie Crist running as an independent, exuded confidence, and when someone in the crowd suggested he run for president, he said: "Listen, I would settle for the Nobel Peace Prize."
It was a bad day for President Barack Obama and the federal healthcare mandate known as "Obamacare," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the mainstream media, activist judges, Crist and career politicians of any stripe, including Republicans.
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