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Can the GOP and 'tea party' activists get along?

They've clashed in some places. But in Arkansas the old guard GOP and the tea party are united, so far, in a bid to oust Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

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Former US Rep. Richard Armey (R) of Texas (c.) spoke against proposed healthcare reform outside Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Little Rock, Ark., office last month.

Danny Johnston/AP

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Dani Martin makes light of her Facebook group “Bye Bye Blanche.”

“It’s something we’re doing to poke fun at her,” Ms. Martin, a “tea party” activist, says of Arkansas’s senior senator, Democrat Blanche Lincoln. “Blanche likes to use her femininity in defense of what she does. We’re feminine conservative girls; she doesn’t represent us.”

With Senator Lincoln up for reelection in November – and besieged on many sides for, among other things, her hesitant support for national healthcare reform – the contest here will test not only the clout of the energetic but unfocused tea party movement but also how effectively the Republican establishment taps it.

So far, the desire to oust Lincoln appears to be uniting tea party and Republican forces here. If that pattern holds, Arkansas could become the altar for a pivotal political marriage that refashions conservatism in America.

But it may also prove to be the exception rather than the rule. Elsewhere, tea party activists and the Republican old guard have clashed. In Florida, for one, tea partyers recently helped oust the Republican Party state chairman, and the two sides back different GOP candidates for the open US Senate seat there.

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