Steele huddles with tea party leaders

“We believe in this meeting that we were heard,” said Karin Hoffman of D.C. Works For Us, a Tea Party organization in South Florida. “It’s the beginning of a relationship.”

But Hoffman, who initiated the sit-down, cautioned that the Tea Party movement is an autonomous grassroots movement and will not “be absorbed into the RNC.”

Indeed, when a group of participants were asked after the meeting if they consider themselves Republicans, nearly all shook their heads and boasted that they were “American citizens.” Others said they knew of fellow Tea Party activists who refused to come to the meeting because they do not trust the Republican leadership.