Santelli Says Tea Party Rant 'Woke People Up'

The 2010 midterm elections could be a milestone in the Tea Party movement—a movement sparked by an outburst from CNBC's Rick Santelli on February 19, 2009.

Nearly two years later, Santelli says his emotional message served as "an alarm clock" that "woke people up."

Angered by the Obama's administration's efforts to modify mortgages, Santelli and traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange voiced their frustration at the federal government's plan to help troubled homeowners, many of whom bought homes they couldn't afford.

Santelli suggested the government was "promoting bad behavior" and asked, "President Obama, are you listening?"

In his on-air rant (a term Santelli himself uses to describe his flare-up), Santelli said "we're thinking about having a Chicago Tea Party in July... and I'm thinking about organizing it..." He said the government's actions at the time were making the country's founding fathers "roll over in their graves."

Now, with dozens of Tea Party-backed candidates running across the country, from Alaska to New York to South Carolina, Santelli looks back with pride, saying the movement is about "we the people."

Santelli describes the Tea Party as a "philosophy" that is still "maturing"—one that is successful, in part, because it is "decentralized."

When the votes are counted in Tuesday's races, Americans will have a more clear picture of the Tea Party's impact on politics and, perhaps, the future of the country.