Hints of 2014 momentum for the GOP, but rifts in the party remain

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The true contest in this year's midterm elections is for control of the Senate, and a promising new candidate gives the Republican Party some momentum on that front.

Giving the party a further boost, the latest CBS News/New York Times poll shows the Republican Party has a three-point edge nationwide when voters are asked to choose between a generic Democrat or generic Republican to support in the midterms. Meanwhile, disappointment in President Obama's White House tenure reached as high as 59 percent, giving Democrats all the more reason to keep their distance from their party leader on the campaign trail.

The news isn't all good for Republicans, however. The poll indicated that about a third of Republican voters believe that their party's nominees are not conservative enough, while as many as four in 10 are not hopeful about the party's future. On top of that, as many as 55 percent of Republicans said they would consider voting for a Democrat, compared to just 39 percent of Democratic voters who said they'd consider voting for a Republican.

Skepticism of the GOP establishment fueled the rise of the tea party five years ago, and those conservative activists gathered in Washington Thursday to remind their elected leaders that they remain a political force. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., was on hand to remind the tea partiers that midterm elections are important -- and can usher game-changing politicians like Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky. into the halls of Congress.

"One thing that the progressive left movement understood was that elections matter... what are we seeing right now on mainstream TV?" Bachmann asked. "The only thing they can talk about is the 2016 election, because they don't want us to think about the 2014 elections."

The Republican Party needs to pick up six seats this November if it wants to win the majority in the Senate.

That could be a little easier now that Republican Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado is running against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall. Political analysts have said Gardner's entry into the race could be a game-changer. Two other candidates have already dropped out to get behind Gardner, who is considered a rising star within the GOP.

"Gardner gives the GOP an upper-tier candidate in a race that has not been considered competitive until now," Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report wrote.

Udall already looked vulnerable -- a Quinnipiac poll from earlier this month showed Colorado voters split, 42 percent to 42 percent, over whether the Democrat deserves re-election.

While the GOP in Colorado gets behind Gardner, conservatives in Texas are less unified.

An influential group of tea partiers said in an open letter Thursday they're no longer backing Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, in his primary challenge against Republican Sen. John Cornyn. That, however, doesn't mean they're getting behind Cornyn -- instead, they're backing businessman Dwayne Stovall in next week's primary.

Meanwhile, Cornyn's Senate colleague, Ted Cruz, still refuses to endorse Cornyn.

"As I've said, I'm going to likely stay out of incumbent Republican primaries; that is an incumbent Republican primary," Cruz said Thursdsay. "I like John Cornyn, he and I have worked together very closely, we've agreed on the vast majority of things. There are some areas in which we've disagreed."