Decision Time For Tea Party Movement In U.S. Political Contests

After a string of setbacks and losses, the insurgent Tea Party movement is at a crossroads, between learning to live within the Republican Party or pursuing its fight against those it sees as not conservative enough.

The choice is an easy one for Tea Party activists, who vow to keep up their campaign to vote out of office those Republican politicians they say have betrayed the tenets of the conservative cause - smaller government and less federal spending and taxes.

Voters nationally blame October's partial government shutdown on Republicans, and particularly the Tea Party, which lost elections earlier this month in Virginia and Alabama.

With important mid-term congressional elections coming in November 2014, the Tea Party is under pressure from within the Republican Party to call off their insurgency and focus on the end game of defeating Democrats, rather than bruising primaries to clobber Republicans, some of whom could be in close contests to keep their seats.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said the Tea Party movement needs to decide its long-term strategy.

"Are they interested in toppling Republicans or winning elections? If they don't win some elections they're probably going to die on the vine," O'Connell said.

A series of interviews with Tea Party activists preparing for 2014, mainly in southern states, produced a clear consensus of the path forward, with possibly unsettling implications for Republican incumbents.

Read more from Nick Carey at Reuters

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Analysis & Political Strategy