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Tea Party insurgency marches into key states

But will Tea Party protest energy help or hobble the Republican Party? They're challenging some GOP candidates and could split the vote in those races.

"Tea Party" protesters at an August rally in Las Vegas, Nev. The rally was one of a series leading up to rallies last month on September 12 in the nation's capital.

David Becker/AP

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Begun as a loosely affiliated groundswell of Constitution-waving protesters in tri-cornered hats, the Tea Party movement is now starting to rock the political establishment in key arenas.

The growing numbers of Americans coming out to the Tax Day Tea Party, the Fourth of July Tea Parties, and then the 9/12 Tea Party march on Washington are going back to their home districts and keeping up -- even intensifying -- the fight for smaller government and more transparency on spending and taxation.

In places like New York, Florida, California, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, local, state, congressional, and gubernatorial seats are suddenly being tugged to-and-fro by the new and unruly political force.

The upshot?

The street energy is welcome for an otherwise moribund Republican party looking for new moorings amid a tumultuous electorate.

The downside is that early examples shows that, in the short run, Tea Party-sponsored candidates could make it more difficult for Republicans as they -- Ross Perot-like -- split races as they target both “tax and spend” Democrats and those they like to call RINOs, or “Republicans-in-name-only.”

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