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Tea Party redefines November races

  |   Sept. 17, 2010 at 1:09 PM
WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. Republicans eying the White House in 2012 and wanting to follow the Tea Party movement's playbook may want to err on the side of caution, insiders say.

The Tea Party movement's success in several state Republican primaries, notably in Delaware's U.S. Senate race Tuesday, has called into question whether pre-Tea Party campaigning rules of starting early, raising funds and building an organization are out of date, The Washington Post reported Friday.

"The only two things more reactive than politicians running for president are rabbits and quail," said strategist John Weaver, who helped take Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., from a rebel in 2000 to the GOP establishment's presidential nominee in 2008.

However, Weaver offered the caution that "many of the people looking to run for president will take a crash course in Tea Party marketing 101 (and) will ultimately hurt themselves."

The rush to stress "ideological purity by Tea Party-backed candidates could leave the Republican Party's center ripe for Democrats, Ken Duberstein, a Reagan White House chief of staff who now is a lobbyist, told the Post. Also, if the Tea Party is more of a momentary tempest instead of a movement, a moderate Republican could step up to fill the void, he said.

Some strategists said they think the 2012 GOP primary race might split into two paths -- one striving for the backing of the Tea Party movement and the other taking the more traditional GOP establishment alternative.

"For the first time in my career, I just literally think all bets are off," said Ralph Reed, longtime GOP operative who leads the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "The old arguments that used to be made based on pragmatic consideration are no longer selling at the grass roots."

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