WASHINGTON - With tens of thousands of conservative protesters expected to gather heretoday for a "Taxpayer March on D.C.," Republican officials are attempting to capitalize on a movement that lately has galvanized anti-Obama activists.
The protesters organized nationwide rallies this summer that have threatened Democratic health care plans and eroded President Barack Obama's standing with the public.
Several key Republican lawmakers, including Mike Pence of Indiana, have helped drum up support for the march and are slated to deliver speeches to the crowd.
But top GOP strategists and some party observers also worry about the impact that the most extreme protesters might have on the party's image, including those who carry swastika signs or obsess over the veracity of Obama's Hawaiian birth.
Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and other Republicans said there is an "opportunity for Republicans" to tap into legitimate fears about an overreaching federal government. But he said that "right-wing nut balls are aligning themselves with these movements" and are dominating media coverage.
Today's march is sponsored by the same loose-knit coalition of groups that helped organize health care protests over the summer and antitax rallies in the spring. They include the Tea Party Patriots, ResistNet and Freedomworks, an organization headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas. The march has also been heavily publicized by Fox News host Glenn Beck.