Tea Party Appeal to GOP Might Fade by November

There's no question that the Tea Party has become a potent political force in a little over a year. A CBS News poll says one in five Americans support the movement now.

Republican Scott Brown's victory in the January senate election in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts symbolized tea party clout.

"Tonight the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken," Brown said the night he was elected to fill the seat vacated by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

But while Republicans initially welcomed the Tea Party, in recent weeks the embrace may be a bit too close for comfort, CBS News Correspondent Dean Reynolds reports.

"The passion that was so important in primaries for Tea Party candidates doesn't play often so well in a general election where you're trying to go after moderate and independent voters," CBS News Political Analyst John Dickerson said.

Take Nevada, where Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is considered vulnerable.

Establishment Republican Sue Lowden is in a close race against Tea Party hopeful Sharron Angle to run against Reid.

"When socialism takes over, all they need to do is look here," Angle said.

Angle wants to end the federal income tax and social security. Reid wants to run against her.

Tea Party candidates have already expelled prominent Republicans from races in Florida and Utah. And the primary race in Arizona involving Sen. John McCain and Tea Party opponent J.D. Hayworth has dismayed Republican officials.

"They're not sure that these untested candidates over the long haul are politically savvy and astute enough to win tough general elections," said Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report.

In North Carolina's 8th District, the Tea Party's Tim d'Annunzio has a shot at the Republican nomination even though divorce papers called him a messianic drug user who worries that a gigantic pyramid will descend on Greenland one day.

He recently held what he called a machine gun social.

"We talked about issues and let people shoot fully automatic uzi submachine guns," d'Annunzio said.

In Kentucky, Tea Party favorite Rand Paul defeated the Republican Party establishment's choice for a Senate nomination, and then Paul's views on the Constitution and civil rights quickly raised Republican doubts about the Tea Partiers' electability.

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Republicans know that passion and energy are terrific, but they also know that without electability you don't win elections.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.