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The Gazette KCRG
Posted August 25, 2011
Tea Party Express, Palin(?) headed to Cedar Rapids for Sept. 1 rally

The Tea Party Express bus has become the "iconic symbol" of the movement, according to the group's co-founder, Sal Russo. The Tea Party Express is planning a noon Sept. 1 rally in Cedar Rapids.


CEDAR RAPIDS – Sarah Palin may be making a lunch-hour stop in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Sal Russo

Sarah Palin

“She’s done about six of our rallies. I think that’s more than anyone else, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her,” says Sal Russo, co-founder and chief strategist for Tea Party Express, which is planning a rally from noon to 2 p.m. at Greene Square Park Sept. 1.

Then again, Russo concedes, Palin may be a no-show.

“She’s known for her spontaneity,” Russo says about Palin, who is scheduled to be in Iowa Sept. 3 for an Iowa Tea Party rally in Indianola. “We don’t always know when she’s coming. She’s always welcome.”

The Cedar Rapids rally is just one of four the Tea Party Express will have in Iowa as it makes its way to Tampa, Florida, where it will co-host a presidential candidate debate with CNN Sept. 12.

The other Tea Party Express stops are in Sioux City, Des Moines and Bettendorf.

Russo, a principal in Russo Marsh + Rogers, a Sacramento political consulting firm, who has crisscrossed Iowa with presidential hopefuls including Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, promises a “positive and upbeat” rally that will be a mixture of music, entertainment and Tea Party speakers.

“Our goal is to heighten awareness in Tea Party issues, which for the Tea Party Express is exclusively economic issues and the increasing size and intrusiveness of government what with higher taxes, onerous regulations and skyrocketing government debt,” he says.

Although some tea party groups pursue foreign policy or social issues, “we’ve stuck to the one unifying theme that motivates all tea parties, the economic issues,” Russo says.

“That’s the zeitgeist of the times – people are worried and concerned about economy,” he says. “We think that’s what the focus should be in this election.”

The Tea Party Express wants to get people involved

“Democracy thrives with an involved electorate,” he says. “Change only comes about if you get off the couch and get engaged.”

Presidential hopefuls sometimes join the Tea Party Express rallies, but typically Russo doesn’t know until the last moment. Elected officials are invited, too.

“We’re not anti-incumbent, anti-office holder,” Russo says.

Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley have been invited. They have other commitments and will not attend, according to their staffs.

The entertainment will include Lloyd Marcus, who sings the Tea Party anthem, Reveille Review, known for its song,  “Press 1 for English,” and comedian Jim Labriola, Benny from the hardware store on “Home Improvement.”.

Regardless of who participates in the rally, Russo says the real star of the show is the Tea Party Express bus itself.

“It’s the closest thing we have to a leader,” he says. “It’s become the iconic symbol. More people want their picture taken with the bus than with any of the speakers.”

Tea Party Express Iowa Rally Schedule:

Aug. 31

  • Sioux City — 11:30 a.m., Riverside Park, 1201 Riverside Blvd.
  • Des Moines – 5 p.m., Des Moines Water Works, 2201 George Flagg Pkwy.

Sept. 1

  • Cedar Rapids – Noon, Greene Square Park, 400 4th Ave. SE
  • Bettendorf – 5 p.m., Leach Park, 100 12th St.


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