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The Atlantic: Where the Tea Parties are

Hundreds of organized rallies will be held across the country by tea party activists Thursday, including large gatherings in Atlanta, Sacramento, DC, Charlotte, and south Florida.
Image: David Corcoran, Henry Massery
David Corcoran of Orlando, Fla., left, and Henry Massery, of Elgin, Illi., attend a tea party protest in Washington, Thursday, April 15, 2010. Jacquelyn Martin / AP
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It's Tax Day in America once again, and that means tea parties.

A year ago today, tea party activists turned out by the (minimum) tens of thousands--or by the millions, according to more favorable estimates--to protest the Obama administration and its economic agenda, waving signs and flags and chanting about the socialist takeover they saw happening in Washington, DC.

Today, they'll be at it again, and we'll get a glimpse of where the movement stands. If turnout is big, it has the momentum it will need to play a role in the 2010 elections. If not, perhaps it doesn't.

Large rallies will be put on by regional and local tea party groups (in some cases, with help from national coalitions) in Atlanta, Sacramento, DC, Charlotte, and south Florida.

Newt Gingrich, who spoke at a Tax Day rally in New York City last year, will speak again at a big rally in Austin.

In all, hundreds of organized rallies will be held across the country. One activist predicted 700 rallies will be put on by local and regional tea party groups. The conservative grassroots organizing group FreedomWorks, which has played a large role in the movement thus far, says it has been in contact with 100 tea party groups about rallies, but that tea partiers are relying less on the DC-based group for support this time around.

Featured prominently in today's events will be the new Contract from America, a statement of 10 bedrock principles for the tea party movement, selected by an open, online voting process over the past several months. The idea was engineered by Houston-based activist Ryan Hecker; major conservative groups like FreedomWorks got behind the Contract idea earlier this year. Activists are being encouraged to tout it at their rallies.

Gingrich will likely endorse the Contract on stage in Austin; Republican politicians will be pressured to sign onto it as a pledge between now and November, and politicians who show up to speak at rallies today will likely praise it and begin adding their names to the pledge.

As with last year, today will present an opportunity for GOP lawmakers to connect with the tea partiers.

It's going to be a big day for the tea party movement. We won't know how it turns out until it's all over, but keep an eye on Fox and MSNBC for shots of crowds big and small.