Tea Party to host GOP presidential debate

One of the largest Tea Party groups will co-host a presidential debate with CNN next year.

Tea Party Express, one of the largest umbrella organizations for the grassroots political movement, will host a GOP presidential candidate debate the week of Labor Day 2011 in Tampa Bay, Fla., the cable network announced Friday.

“Over the past two years, the American people have engaged in the political process like no other time in history. The Tea Party movement continues to grow and will play an even greater role in the 2012 elections,” said Tea Party Express Chairwoman Amy Kremer. “The debate will give presidential candidates an opportunity to focus on the issues near and dear to the Tea Party and our supporters across the country.”

The Tea Party made an impact in GOP congressional primaries in 2010 by knocking off a number of incumbents and establishment candidates in favor of more conservative, insurgent candidates.

The big questions facing the movement now are how it will interact with Republicans in control of the House and on the rise in the Senate, and whether it can replicate its impact in the GOP primaries in 2012.

There are already signs that the movement will have an impact on the GOP 2012 race. 

Republican contenders for the 2012 nomination split over the the tax package compromise between Senate Republicans and President Obama, who will sign the measure into law on Friday. 

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. John Thune (S.D.) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich all backed the deal, allying themselves with Republican leaders in Congress.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Sarah Palin, Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) opposed the deal, in a bow toward conservative elements of the GOP, such as the Tea Party.

More in Presidential races

Record audience tunes in for GOP debate

Read more »