BOSTON — It's a tricky time of courtship.
As the tea party turns 2, the still-gelling field of Republican presidential contenders is the first class of White House hopefuls to try to figure out how to tap the movement's energy without alienating voters elsewhere on the political spectrum.
Look no further than this weekend's events marking the tea party's second anniversary to see how the candidates are employing different strategies. Some will be out front as the tea party stages tax day rallies across the country. Others, not so much.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, an establishment Republican making a play for tea party support and clamoring to be heard over bigger names, is among those jumping in with both feet. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is being more coy.
Pawlenty, for his part, planned to hold court at a gathering on Boston Common — in the city where colonists staged the 1773 Tea Party revolt against the British government — and in neighboring New Hampshire. And he's headed for Iowa a day later for similar appearances that are likely to include "Don't Tread on Me" banners and tirades against Washington spending.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, perhaps the Republican most closely identified with the tea party, is slated to attend a weekend tea party rally at the Wisconsin Capitol, the site of recent protests over legislation that would strip union rights for most public workers.
Tea party darling Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman, all but drafted into the race by tea partyers, plans to share the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse with another of the movement's favorite daughters, Gov. Nikki Haley.
And little-known businessman Herman Cain, who is hoping tea party backing can make him more than a longshot, plans to hit rallies in New Hampshire, Iowa, Michigan and Texas.