For the better part of two years, Republican operatives have been trying to figure out how to harness the energy of the Tea Party in order to further their electoral goals. After Tuesday, when Tea Party-backed candidate Christine O'Donnell beat Rep. Michael Castle in Delaware's Senate primary, it has become clear that the opposite is happening -- the Tea Party movement is clearly and inexorably taking over the Republican Party. Earlier this year, Tea Party backers in Maine and Idaho helped install controversial new planks in state party platforms. In Arizona, Nevada, Michigan and elsewhere, Tea Party activists are filling up vacant precinct committee slots, which gives them votes at state conventions. Already, several state Republican chairs are concerned that their jobs are in danger, should they face a Tea Party uprising. It is ironic that O'Donnell's win would come in the First State, the day before Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele embarked on a 48-state bus tour around the country. The RNC is promoting a new program based on the Democratic National Committee's 50-state strategy, hoping to capitalize on the positive political environment in order to win offices at all levels, in every state. The program is called D2H -- Delaware to Hawaii, encompassing the first state to the 50th. As Steele travels, he may find a very different Republican Party than the one he took over last January. That may suit Steele just fine; while he's been criticized for not reaching out to some groups, he has made a point to create inroads with Tea Party leaders across the country.
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