The first ever Tea Party convention begins Thursday. Expectations have slumped a bit since a high January high point, when David Brooks and others predicted it would shape the next decade in politics, and pundits were buzzing about Sarah Palin's highly-anticipated keynote speech Saturday. But Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)'s last-minute withdrawal and the high cost of attending have commentators mixed about the outlook. The Atlantic's Chris Good poses the question on everybody's mind: as the Tea Party convention finally gets underway, "will it be a success, a failure, or irrelevant to the movement?"

  • So Much for the Shakeup "The widely anticipated civil war within the Republican Party is off to a decidedly dull start," writes Politico's Jonathan Martin. "Early evidence suggests that party leaders and even most grass-roots activists are more interested in winning elections than in ideological bloodletting."For all the murmuring about a third-party threat, "the one race where there is at least a perceived threat from the tea party crowd toward the establishment is the Florida GOP Senate primary."
  • Don't Write It Off Just Yet Sure, says John Avlon for The Daily Beast, "as with all pre-game press, there's plenty of hype that offers more heat than light." But he argues that "the big game, the 'Thrilla in Vanilla,' goes on." The folks to watch for: Judge Roy Moore, the Alabama Supreme Court chief justice of the Ten Commandments controversy; Tom Tancredo, forer Colorado congressman who called Sonya Sotomayor a member of the "Latino KKK"; WorldNetDaily founder Joseph Farah; Sarah Palin; and, finally, the Tea Partiers themselves--"the real stars of the convention," according to Avlon. "They are not fools; they have read their Founding Fathers. But their anger and alienation have been pumped up to a fever pitch."
  • Mismatch Mark Mitchell at Front Porch Republic thinks both Palin and the Tea Party can do better than each other.
  • All About the Match, Whatever It Is As The Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti argues, "while certain Republican politicians are favorites at the Tea Party ... the activists do not have an icon. They have not rallied behind a single individual." That's been one of their strengths: "The movement is organic, diverse, and in flux. It encompasses all sorts of folks ... This poses a political challenge for liberals, since they have found it hard to demonize an entire movement (not for lack of trying!)." But the Tea Party may be about to choose its leader, and that is something to watch for, he says.