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Tea Party Tally

How the tea party helped GOP find a path to Election Day successes

Victories for tea-party candidates Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Jim DeMint showed the impact of the nascent conservative movement on the GOP's ability to project a winning posture.

By Staff writer / November 2, 2010

U.S. Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio (L) waves beside his daughter Amanda during his victory speech at a rally in Coral Gables, Florida, Tuesday. Rubio and fellow winning tea party candidates Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have helped propel the GOP to the top of midterm elections.

Hans Deryk/Reuters

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Concerns that the nascent tea party movement would hamper a return to relevancy for Republicans are quickly giving way as Election Day results suggest that in fact, the decentralized conservative protest movement helped give the GOP a roadmap to success.

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"The biggest tea party is today," said Sen. Jim DeMint, a big tea party favorite, in a victory speech in his homestate of South Carolina. On Tuesday night, Rand Paul, a Senate candidate from Kentucky, called his victory a "tea party tidal wave."

Tea party-supported Republicans Marco Rubio in Florida (US Senate), John Boozman in Arkansas (US Senate), and Nikki Haley in South Carolina (governor) also were coasting to convincing victories Tuesday, even as one of the most famous tea party candidates, Christine O'Donnell, failed in her bid in to win a Delaware Senate seat. Glen Urqhart, also a tea party candidate in Delaware, lost his bid for a House seat, as well.

But more importantly, the tea party, which at first worried and, frankly, scared both Democrats and mainstream Republicans, helped to give roiling anger over the economy and stubbornly high unemployment figures a national vent. Exit polls Tuesday gave the GOP a clear edge on turnout and passion, pointing the way for a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

At 9:17, CNN predicted that Republicans had won control of the House of Representatives.

"The primary effect of the tea party for was that it generated enormous intensity for Republicans, and for Republican candidates up and down the ballot," Whit Ayres, a veteran GOP pollster, told the Wall Street Journal's Gerald Sieb.

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