RNC Chair Michael Steele met with Tea Party Leaders from the DC Works For Us group this afternoon in Florida.
One of the activists took video of the meeting:
The meeting was supposed to last one hour until 5 PM but went on until 7:30 PM.
CNN reported on the meeting:
An uneasy truce may have been reached between the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party after Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele spent nearly four hours Tuesday trying to calm the fears of Tea Party leaders who worry that the GOP is out to co-opt their grassroots energy ahead of the 2010 midterm elections.
Steele met with about 50 Tea Party leaders from grassroots organizations around the country in a lengthy bull session at the Capitol Hill Club, a cushy Republican meeting-spot located next to RNC headquarters.
The closed-door event, organized several weeks ago, was originally scheduled to last for one hour. But participants said the confab lasted well into the evening after the RNC chairman vowed to answer every question put forth by the activists who made the trip to Washington.
Participants said their primary goal was simply “to be heard” by the party establishment and to make clear to Steele that Tea Party activists want the national party to stay out of local races. Steele, they said, listened graciously throughout the meeting and promised to keep the lines of communication open.
“We believe in this meeting that we were heard,” said Karin Hoffman of D.C. Works For Us, a Tea Party organization in South Florida. “It’s the beginning of a relationship.”
But Hoffman, who initiated the sit-down, cautioned that the Tea Party movement is an autonomous grassroots movement and will not “be absorbed into the RNC.”
Indeed, when a group of participants were asked after the meeting if they consider themselves Republicans, nearly all shook their heads and boasted that they were “American citizens.” Others said they knew of fellow Tea Party activists who refused to come to the meeting because they do not trust the Republican leadership.
Steele, however, won over many in the group when he pledged that the Republican Party will not to meddle in local races – especially GOP primaries featuring candidates backed by Tea Party activists. At one point in the meeting, the divisive Senate primary battle in Florida between Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist was mentioned. The chairman said the role of the national party is to back whoever becomes the Republican nominee.