NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) – When Sarah Palin gives the keynote speech Saturday night at what's being billed as the first national Tea Party convention, it's safe to say that she'll be among friends.
The former Alaska governor was the darling of many conservatives when she served as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and many of those attending the convention at Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center say they are big Palin supporters.
Pam Silleman, a 52-year-old small business owner and Tea Party activist who traveled to the convention from California's Napa Valley, called Palin "the Tea Party's inspiration."
Asked if Palin, who is considered a possible contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, should make a bid for the White House, Silleman said, "I would like to see her in a higher office but I don't know that she'll do it. I wouldn't want her to be hurt that bad."
Fremont Brown, a supporter who had "Palin 2012" bumper stickers with him, said Palin is "the right person."
"She has fervent heart and she's conservative," added the 59-year-old Brown, who owns a small business in North Carolina. "She was the only one truly qualified with executive experience of the four who ran in 2008. The others were glorified lobbyists."
If Palin does make a stab at presidential politics, she'll have a natural following among Tea Party activists, whose grassroots network is fueled by anger over the growth of the federal government and President Barack Obama's policies.
In a column earlier this week in USA Today, Palin said "the soul of the Tea Party is the people who belong to it, every day Americans who grow our food, run our small businesses, teach our children how to read, serve the less fortunate, and fight our wars."
Palin added that "they have the courage to stand up and speak out. Their vision is what drew me to the Tea Party movement. They believe in the same principles that guided my work in public service."
Neither the Tea Party Nation, the group that organized the convention, nor a Palin spokeswoman would confirm reports that the former governor is getting paid about $100,000 for her keynote appearance.
"I will not benefit financially from speaking at this event," Palin said in a statement this week. "Any compensation for my appearance will go right back to the cause."
In a blog post on the conservative Web site Townhall.com this past week, Palin said she looks forward to greater participation with the Tea Party movement in the coming weeks. She said she will be on hand next month for a kickoff rally for the third Tea Party Express cross country bus caravan. The event will take place March 27 in Searchlight, Nevada - the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who finds himself in a tough re-election battle this year.
Palin also said she will attend an April 14 Tea Party rally in Boston.
"The process may not always be pretty or perfect, but the message is loud and clear: We want a government worthy of the fine Americans that it serves," said Palin. "And we're going to keep spreading that message one convention, one town hall, one speech and one election at a time."
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national poll released Friday indicates that Americans are split Palin, with 43 percent seeing her in a positive light and 46 percent holding an unfavorable view.
"Opinion on Sarah Palin breaks down along party lines, with seven in ten Democrats disliking her and seven in ten Republicans with a positive view of Palin. She has a net-negative rating among Independents: 42 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "She also continues to rate better among men than women."
Caitlyn Eubanks, 21, a Texas college student attending the Tea Party convention, said Palin is "a strong woman and she can take care of herself."
Asked if Palin should run for public office again, Eubanks' fiance, Brad Cornwell, a chemist who lives in Nashville, said, "I think it would certainly help her out if she would run for something and get more experience. It would get her more credence and a stronger track record."
–CNN's Alex Mooney contributed to this report
Well, when you are selling bigoted stupidity, it stands to reason that you would be a hit with the bigoted and stupid...
Reminds me of that movie, Dumb and Dumber.
Pailin is a superstar, no one can deny that; however, the woman is not the brightest bulb in the pack and I cringe when I try to imagine her meeting with world leaders. She is not even in GW's league.
It frightens me to think that Ms Palin has any kind of following. So the tea party people are either sheep who want to be lead somewhere or just morons. Frightening.
The Tea Party members need a "grifter" to take their money. And they won't admit they got conned, because it's just too embarrassing.
If these small business owners are really small and they are smart enough, they would not have embraced Sarah Palin, who is against Universal Health Care, which would be a life saver for small businesses.
Why should you pay for others' health care, when you are struggling yourself? This sells very well based on our selfish gene.
However, have you thought of that you will get affordable coverage through a public option or universal health care for yourself?
Tea Party. The 21st Century KKK.
Mothers in Florida better lock up thier teen age daughters next week . The teen age protege about sex and unwed mothers is coming to town.Santa Claus she isn't.
This all is nothing more than old, well used, tea bags.
These unpatriotic Americans have nothing constructive to bring America during the time when America needs all of us most.
Is it birds of a feather, or retards of a feather? The later, I believe!
Are you going to vote for Sarah Palin or Todd Palin?
"Nearly 3,000 pages of e-mails that Todd Palin exchanged with state officials, which were released to msnbc.com and NBC News by the state of Alaska under its public records law, draw a picture of a Palin administration where the governor's husband got involved in a judicial appointment, monitored contract negotiations with public employee unions, received background checks on a corporate CEO, added his approval or disapproval to state board appointments and passed financial information marked "confidential" from his oil company employer to a state attorney."
It amazes the extent of ignorance and self righteousness in the Tea Party......a small group of white people who live in a bubble. No understanding of the REAL world out there!!!!
This woman will destroy America!
I don't know much about this "Tea Party", but it sounds alot like some kind of Republican offshoot, maybe like the so called "Swift Boat" group. I hear alot of Rich people crying for tax cuts, as if that ever solved anything. And if Sarah Palin is part of it, that tells me all I need to know – which is STAY AWAY.
Oh, and I do hope Palin tries to run again for president in 2012 – that is the surest way to guarantee the Democrats another 4 years.
People around the world always talk about 'dumb Americans' and I have always defended the US against such claims and I fully believe it's unfair to pain the whole country with that brush. BUT, anyone who seriously thinks that Sarah Palin is even remotely qualified to run the country is completely flat out crazy, hideously misled, or stupid.
This Tea Party movement seems like it's a bunch of small town white people who don't know anything about politics, they are just against Barack Obama and any sort of social justice...
Left wing progressives nut jobs attacking Sarah in 3,2,1....
"Asked if Palin should run for public office again, Eubanks' fiance, Brad Cornwell, a chemist who lives in Nashville, said, "I think it would certainly help her out if she would run for something and get more experience. It would get her more credence and a stronger track record."
Sarah Palin has a track record. She was a mayor, commissioner, and governor.
The guy in the WH had no track record and look at the state of our country.
Birds of the same feather, flock together.
Hey gop@ the dum tea party u people don't get it no gop member will never win office for president if blacks @ latin don't vote and from what I see u guys have no chance try to understand those community first get them on board then maybe u have a chance!!
Sarah the quitter is not qualified to be head of an outhouse cleaning crew. She was in over her head when she was governor and finally realized it and quit. It was the only good thing she ever did for our state.
I find it very difficult how anyone can support such a dimwit. It goes to show how stupid her followers are.
She will be among friends, more right wing nuts.
You can best be sure liberal hatred will follow shortly. You don't like a tea party convention, don't have one and don't go to one! Other than that, can you say FIRST AMENDMENT?