SEVIERVILLE, TENNESSEE–Waiting to get into a major Tea Party rally here in the hometown of Dolly Parton, attendees were disgruntled as they stood in line waiting to get through security.
But it wasn’t the long lines waiting to get inside the convention center that frustrated them, it was the Sen. Thad Cochran’s victory over the more conservative Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi runoff race.
In conversations with attendees, and from the stage as Former Governor Sarah Palin, Sen. Rick Santorum, and Rep. Allen West addressed the crowd of about 500, the anger about Cochran’s controversial electoral tactics was palpable.
Tennessee is considered an important battleground in the fight by Tea Party activists in 2014, as conservative challenger Joe Carr is challenging the establishment Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
Carr, wasn’t at the rally, but spoke with Breitbart News by phone, asserting that his race was more important than ever given the outcome in Mississippi.
Osborn, whose Tea Party group co-sponsored the event, decried Republicans that had “prostituted themselves” to the Democratic base simply to stay in power.
Other attendees shared the same sentiment.
Cochran’s ploy, he believed, was an example of cynical politics and he was disappointed with the tactics in the Republican party.
He admitted that although Cochran often voted as a conservative, it was an ugly mark on his career.
The couple wore t-shirts to show support for the conservative challenger to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN in the Republican primary, Joe Carr.
Like Cochran, Alexander is taking heat from conservatives for working with Democrats in the Senate – and voting with President Obama.
Clare explained that like Cochran, Alexander would likely rely on support from Democrats to win his election as well – as the state has an open primary.
Members of the crowd were keenly aware of Alexander’s record in Washington D.C. and appeared ready to vote him out.
He admitted that Carr faced a tough race against a well-funded incumbent
But he was also concerned that Carr was facing an uphill battle.
Only one attendee at the rally, a local Republican politician, defended Alexander as a conservative who deserved re-election.
The group of political activists were keenly aware of the disruption in the party, and sought encouragement from three of their political champions who also faced tough losses – former Governor Sarah Palin, former Senator Rick Santorum, and former Rep. Allen West.
Mississippi was also on their minds as well.
Palin also disparaged the Republican party for their actions in Mississippi.
Santorum also encouraged attendees to continue fighting in spite of the loss.
The message he wanted to send, he told Breitbart News after his speech, was for conservatives to not get discouraged.
West offered a similar message in his speech.
Palin reminded activists that the results should inspire them to redouble their efforts, pointing out that the establishment politicians would try to discourage them.
In spite of their frustration, Palin soon had the crowd laughing as she peppered her speech with political jokes and taking shots against President Obama and his allies.
West, a University of Tennessee graduate, led the crowd in a rendition of the song Rocky Top, much to the delight of the crowd.
Palin took the stage acknowledging that Sevierville was Dolly Parton’s home town, explaining that she once dressed up as Parton for Halloween when she was in High School.
She also reminded them that the media was also trying to sound a death knell for the Tea Party but it was very much alive.
Palin held up Sen. Ted Cruz as an example of a Washington politician that was fighting for them, and explained that it was more important than ever to send him allies in his fight against the Washington establishment.
Although she hasn’t endorsed Joe Carr yet in his primary, Palin dropped a hint to Tennessee voters that he was one of their allies.
Carr, however, was not at the rally as the set block of speakers had already been set.
On the phone, he told Breitbart News that since he was not invited to speak at the rally, he had scheduled events elsewhere in the state.
Organizers of the rally explained early on that if local political figures wanted to attend, they would have to purchase tickets.
Other longshot candidates running against Carr and Alexander, did buy tickets and worked the crowd as they came in passing out campaign literature.
Carr declined to comment about whether Palin or Santorum had decided to endorse him, but he said that his campaign had already had “productive” conversations with both camps.
He hoped that the rally would inspire Tea Party supporters to stay involved and believe in his campaign.
The Tea Party in Tennessee, Carr said, was “very very very well organized.”
in 2012, the Tea Party groups held a vote deciding to support Carr in the fight to defeat Lamar Alexander.
Carr said that McDaniel would have won by at least five points in Mississippi, if the establishment hadn’t worked to “steal an election” by reaching out to Democrats.
He denied that the Cochran victory would affect his own campaign negatively.