The third GOP debate is going down on Wednesday, and it'll be on CNBC. The previous two delivered big ratings to Fox News and CNN respectively, and now a slew of the business and finance channel's on-air personalities will take their turns — Becky Quick, Carl Quintanilla, and John Harwood will be the moderators, and they'll be joined by a panel consisting of Jim Cramer, Sharon Epperson, and Rick Santelli. And in case you're not familiar with them, you might wonder: Who is CNBC's Rick Santelli?

Santelli, 62, is the on-air editor for CNBC, a job he assumed back in 1999. Born in Chicago and raised in a nearby suburb, attending the University of Illinois, and now reporting directly from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, he's a Prairie State product through and through — he still resides there to this day, with his wife and children.

If you're politically minded, it's quite possible that you've heard his name before, even if you're not a regular CNBC viewer. In reality, Santelli's had a very significant impact on modern American politics, by virtue of his signature on-air schtick — he often spins into vehement on-air rants delivered from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor, including an infamous 2009 outburst that's widely credited with spawning the Tea Party movement.

I have an idea, the new administration is big on computers and technology. How about this, President and new administration? Why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages, or would we like to at least buy cars, and buy houses in foreclosure, and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road, and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water?

Santelli repeatedly castigated homeowners who were facing mortgage foreclosure, and at one point the camera pulled back as he gestured throughout the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, saying, "This is America!" It's the sort of speech that'd you'd imagine sounds badass and inspiring if you're an insular-minded financial trader, and if not, callous and megalomaniacal.

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But clearly not everyone agreed about that — a lot of people got charged up by this call to arms, especially when Santelli uttered the following, incredibly consequential words:

We're thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July, all you capitalists that wanna show up to Lake Michigan, I'm gonna start organizing.

That line, in effect, is why we've all been hearing the words "Tea Party" for the last six years. Obviously, the post-2008 political climate was ripe for a virulent, roiled conservative backlash against the Obama administration, so it's entirely possible that one would've similarly sprung up without Santelli's involvement. But what actually happened is that a CNBC personality went on an on-air tirade against "losers" who took out high-interest mortgages (conspicuously not mentioning the predatory banks who issued them), and then in a couple weeks, we had the Tea Party to deal with.


In other words, Santelli has a skill at firing up people who share his aggressively capitalistic, conservative views, and he's going to have a big platform on Wednesday night. According to CNBC, each of the panelists will also be involved in asking questions of the candidates, so it'll be worth paying attention to how he goes about it — in a nationally televised debate, you'd assume he'll have to play things a little closer to the chest.