TAMPA, Fla. — The “Unity Rally 2012,” convening the night before the Republican National Convention began, preached a form of unity that was less about uniting around a common idea or candidate than about uniting around a common enemy: President Barack Obama.
The Sunday rally in Tampa’s River Church featured tea party figures including two of Mitt Romney’s formal primary rivals: pizza mogul Herman Cain and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. It was co-sponsored by TheTeaParty.net, Cain Solutions Revolution, the Western Representation PAC and other organizations.
Some in the crowd did not seem entirely sold on their party’s nominee. Two holdouts stood outside the event holding a Newt Gingrich sign, and several cars sported Ron Paul stickers.
Bachmann’s message was less unity-focused and more a celebration of ways in which the tea party had successfully co-opted the Republican Party.
“We are not an unwanted, second class political party,” she said in her short speech. “We are the conscience of the United States Constitution!”
As a measure of success of the movement, she pointed to the Republican Party’s convention platform.
“The tea party is all over that platform,” she said.
Romney’s representative at the rally, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, an early endorser of the former Massachusetts governor, devoted his speech to touting Romney’s business prowess, his personal appeal and his success rescuing the Salt Lake City Olympics. But even Chaffetz set out the stakes of November’s election in stark terms.
Chaffetz said he had spent countless hours and days campaigning for Romney “because I believe him — I think he’s the right person at the right time — but also because I want to defeat Barack Obama.”
Cain, who delivered the night’s keynote address, said the election was now about putting aside individual needs in favor of Republicans’ common goal.
“One of the hardest things about getting out of the race because of lies and dirty politics was that I know that a lot of people supported me were gonna be disappointed,” Cain intoned. “But let me tell you: This is why, because of the support that I had, even though I am no longer seeking the position of president, I am still on a mission to defeat Barack Obama.”
Cain does not have a speaking slot at the convention, something he said did not disappoint him.
“You see, it’s not about me,” he said to raucous applause. “It’s about the great things we can do.”