WASHINGTON — The tea party is here to stay after its powerful role in the debt-ceiling debate.
Now the GOP establishment wonders if the movement will sweep Republicans to victories in 2012 or dash them on the rocks of unbending ideology.
The tea party already is reshaping the Republican Party. Once-moderate lawmakers are shifting sharply right. They fear primary challenges more than Democratic opponents.
And most GOP presidential contenders have positioned themselves to the right of party leaders on the debt-ceiling issue.
The movement's influence on the GOP is double-edged. Tea partyers' adamant anti-tax stand helped Republican negotiators. But House tea partyers embarrassed Speaker John Boehner by forcing him to revise his debt-ceiling bill. Republican candidates have gotten the message and shouldn't get blindsided by the tea party's power in 2012.
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