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Sarah Palin kick-starts final Tea Party Express bus tour of 2010

Tea Party Express launches its last tour of the 2010 campaign in (guess where) Sen. Harry Reid's home state of Nevada with an event headlined by (guess who) Sarah Palin.

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Of the states with the closest Senate races – Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia – the tour will visit all but four, opting out of Alaska, Colorado (a surprise, due to the closeness of the race), Wisconsin, and Washington.

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It will also lend support to numerous House and gubernatorial candidates in close races, and will show up to support some candidates – like Delaware’s O’Donnell and Arkansas’s John Boozman – even in races where the outcome is all but guaranteed.

The Southeast, including Florida, gets largely ignored, as does the Rocky Mountain West. The Southwest, Midwest, and Northeast are the big targets here – hardly surprising, given where the closest races are.

What’s the impact likely to be?

The Tea Party Express – still the most well known faction of the unofficial tea party movement, despite some controversies and dissent between it and other tea party groups – got its start with these high-profile tours, launching the first one in August of 2009.

It’s gone on to have major influence largely due to its spending. In this election cycle, the Tea Party Express PAC has raised more than $6 million, and big last-minute media blitzes were largely responsible for the primary victories of long-shot candidates like O’Donnell, Ms. Angle, Alaska's Joe Miller, and Florida’s Marco Rubio.

But this tour will get back to the roots of the movement, and will test how well it can affect voter turnout – and election results – in a general election, as opposed to a primary, when it was able to have a big impact in part due to the smaller, more partisan group of voters.

Expect big names and a lot of media coverage – and, if you’re really interested, the group will be streaming its events online at its website.

IN PICTURES: Sarah Palin's fashion

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