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Trouble brewing between the Tea Party movement and the GOP?

Members of the Tea Party movement say they are not beholden to the GOP.

(Page 3 of 12)

"The Tea Party movement needs champions," said Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia. "They have to be able to say 'We're the reason they got elected.' Otherwise the movement may dissipate."

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The Tea Party movement has resonated with many Americans, as demonstrated by a March 15 Rasmussen Reports poll putting Tea Party candidates in third place with 21 percent approval among voters behind the Republicans at 27 percent and the Democrats at 34 percent. A December poll had put the movement in second place ahead of the Republicans.

Some Republican politicians have actively courted Tea Partiers, whose fiscal conservative focus is close to the Republicans' stated principles. Democrat politicians have largely shunned the movement.

"This year the momentum is away from the Democrats as they're the party in power, so Republican candidates espousing Tea Party views in general have a better chance in the midterms," Sabato said. "But movements like this have come and gone before, so it's still too early to say if the movement will survive long term."

In the near term, the mostly white movement faces a possible showdown with the religious right over divisive social issues. But its biggest challenge lies in tackling its extremist fringe, including those who equate Obama with Hitler and the "birther" movement that doubts Obama's U.S. citizenship and the legitimacy of his presidency.

"The majority of Americans can agree with the core principles of the Tea Party movement," said Ned Ryun, president of American Majority, a conservative group that has provided training programs for Tea Party groups. "But if it allows itself to be defined by its extremist fringe, then it's lost."


Around 11pm local time on November 4, 2008, America's first black president-elect strode out onto a stage in Grant Park in downtown Chicago and told a cheering crowd of about 250,000 that "change has come to America."

Some 40 miles away in the suburb of Grayslake, local businesswoman Janelle Nagy sat up in bed watching Obama's victory speech in horror, her bedcovers tucked tightly under her chin.

"I told my husband how afraid I was for America," she said, her hands held close to her face as if still clutching a blanket like a scared child. "Obama said he wants to fundamentally change America. But I don't want to fundamentally change this country."

"I love America the way it is," added Nagy, now a leader of the Northern Illinois Patriots.