Herman Cain, the surprise victor in a Florida Republican presidential straw poll, will travel to Schaumburg to try to build momentum at an inaugural Midwest tea party convention Saturday, with fellow tea party contender Michele Bachmann planning to deliver remarks via video conference.
The former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host hopes to use his appearance at TeaCon 2011 to stoke the fire in his recent surge in the polls, with a Fox News poll this week placing him third in the Republican field behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
With Cain the only presidential candidate confirmed to attend the convention's candidates forum and straw poll in person -- Bachmann had a scheduling conflict -- and TeaCon 2011 now the only tea party convention in the area this year, the sold-out convention could have national implications for both Cain and the suburbs.
"With the attention he picked up from the straw poll, he really is driving the momentum train right now," TeaCon 2011 spokesman Eric Kohn said. "(Our) straw poll will be another opportunity to extend that moment."
Organizer Steve Stevlic, director of the Chicago Tea Party Patriots, expects roughly 1,000 at the Chicago tea party's inaugural Midwest convention at the Renaissance Hotel, where they'll hear from conservative figures including 8th District U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of McHenry, and commentator and lightning rod Glenn Beck.
Organizers of RightNation 2011, originally scheduled for early November in Hoffman Estates, moved to postpone the conference in order to draw bigger crowds closer to the 2012 election, the Daily Herald learned this week.
Kohn said Schaumburg was chosen as TeaCon's setting mainly as a cost-effective alternative to Chicago venues, calling it "the best deal within a 100-mile radius."
"Holding a lot of events in the city is incredibly cost-prohibitive," Kohn said.
Beck headlines the event, along with blogger Andrew Breitbart, radio talk show host Dana Loesch, and comedian and Fox News contributor Steven Crowder.
After a kickoff reception this evening with Breitbart, Saturday features a number of breakout sessions on citizen journalism, repealing health care reform, working with the media and fundraising.
Stevlic said Walsh will help lead one of the breakout sessions on "Repealing Obamacare," as well as speak at a noon luncheon. His 14th District primary rival, Rep. Randy Hultgren of Winfield, had no plans to attend the event, his office said.
At the same time, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 8th District Democratic primary contender Raja Krishnamoorthi, of Hoffman Estates, will lead a "Defend Middle Class Jobs" rally outside the convention grounds. Krishnamoorthi says he's "outraged" that the tea party has chosen to hold TeaCon 2011 "in his own backyard and has called on Democrats to join together and stand up to the tea party on behalf of the middle class and President Obama."
Stevlic said TeaCon organizers invited all of the declared Republican presidential candidates to participate in 20-minute interviews during a "town hall meeting" that will include questions from guests. As of Thursday, only Ron Paul had declined the invitation, but other candidates, aside from Cain, were arranging to participate via video conference or submitted video rather than in person, Stevlic said.
Attendees will be able to "submit questions the media won't ask and get answers the media can't get," the Meetup.com promo pledges. "This will be an opportunity for tea party groups from across the Midwest to voice our choice on who should be the next president of the United States. The 2012 election is too important to let the political establishment and mainstream media pick our candidate."
The conference is capped off with a dinner with Beck at 7 p.m. Saturday, where "Glenn will offer up his vision" for how tea party members "should approach the 2012 election cycle," according to organizers.