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Oct 15, 2011 10:21 AM by Kate Richards

Romney's success challenging tea party's clout

WASHINGTON (AP) - Mitt Romney's early success in the Republican presidential race is challenging the tea party's clout. Will it continue to pull the GOP sharply right? Or will it merge with mainstream Republican elements in a nod to pragmatism?

Romney's strength seems at odds with the tea party's fiery success in ousting Republicans seen as compromisers.

He defends the government's 2008 bank bailouts. He defends the mandated health insurance he initiated as Massachusetts governor. He once supported abortion rights, gun control and gay rights.

Yet Romney is faring better in polls and fundraising than are contenders with stronger tea party credentials.

Some Republican strategists say tea partyers are more pragmatic than most people think. Others say Romney may face problems with tea partyers if TV attack ads underscore his more moderate positions.

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