* Tea Party presents double-edged sword for Republicans
* Nevada, Delaware losses undermine Senate control bid
* Sarah Palin's political future could face new scrutiny
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON, Nov 3 The Tea Party gave
Republicans a jolt of energy that helped them capture the House
of Representatives, but it may have proved too strong a brew to
win the Senate.
The loosely organized network of conservatives and
libertarians, which surfaced just last year, swept House
Democrats from power on a wave of voter anger that handed
Republicans a majority of at least 60 seats in the biggest
power shift in Congress since 1948.
"There's absolutely no doubt that, overall, the Tea Party
movement helped the Republicans enormously by fueling the
grass-roots excitement that led to their historic margins,"
said Peter Brown of the Quinnipiac University Polling
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At least 62 Tea Party-backed House and Senate candidates
won elections on Tuesday, according to FreedomWorks, a
nonprofit conservative group that helped build the movement
from a series of public protests against President Barack
Obama's spending and reform policies.
But the Tea Party movement also produced losses for
Republicans in key Senate races, including Republican Sharron
Angle's failed attempt to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid in Nevada.
By Wednesday, Republicans had picked up only six of the 10
seats they needed to win control of the Senate. Tea
Party-endorsed Senate candidates lost outright in Nevada,
Delaware, Colorado and California.
Analysts say Republicans would have had a stronger chance
of capturing the Senate with more established candidates.
"The Tea Party has a very mixed record and this reinforces
mainstream Republican doubts about the fact that they are
pulling the party too far to the right," said Larry Sabato of
the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
The Tea Party tide toppled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from
power and set up Republican John Boehner to replace her as the
congressional chamber's top legislative leader in January.
Republican strategist Nicole Wallace acknowledged the Tea
Party role had brought "trade-offs" for Republicans on the
Senate side but told MSNBC: "I think without the energy of the
Tea Party, we wouldn't be looking at a Speaker Boehner."
Dick Armey, the former House majority leader who heads
FreedomWorks, said Republicans should be thanking the Tea Party
for halting Obama's agenda.
"They have stopped the Obama legislative train from
continuing in its leftward lurch across the country," Armey
The Tea Party has been blamed for fielding candidates such
as Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, who defeated experienced
Republican moderate Mike Castle in the party primary but proved
not ready for prime time in the general election.
O'Donnell's Senate bid was overshadowed by gaffes about
witchcraft and divine intervention in state politics. She lost
to Democrat Chris Coons by 17 percentage points.
Reid, who trailed Angle going into the election, emerged
the victor by a 5 percentage point margin.
But Tea Party-backed Senate candidates won in Florida,
Kentucky, Utah, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Senate losses could mean new scrutiny for Sarah Palin, the
former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee
who became a Tea Party celebrity by endorsing candidates
including O'Donnell, Angle and Carly Fiorina in California.
She also endorsed fellow Alaska Republican Joe Miller, who
upset Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the primary but
appeared to be trailing her write-in candidacy on Wednesday in
a contest that may not be decided for days or even weeks.
Palin is seen as a potential Republican presidential
candidate in 2012 and her chances may actually have been
strengthened by her overall endorsement record, which includes
30 winning House candidates and five Senate candidates,
(Editing by Vicki Allen)