Conservative Tea Party activists are energizing the Republican Party, but all that enthusiasm comes with a price: They may be scaring away the moderates that would help the GOP retake the House in 2010. With a shaky economy, a controversial health-care plan, and uncertainty in Afghanistan, the Republicans should have a good chance to win back seats from Democrats. But some of the candidates the party thinks have the best shot at winning seats back from the Dems are deeply unpopular with teabaggers. GOP leaders were thrilled Florida Governor Charlie Crist agreed to run for the Senate, but he’s reviled by conservative activists for supporting President Obama’s stimulus package. And in the only congressional race this November, a pro-choice Republican candidate hoping to hold a GOP seat in upstate New York is being challenged by a Tea Party favorite, who has siphoned off enough support from his moderate rival that a Democrat is now in the lead. "It's healthy to have debates about the future direction of the party," says a spokesman for the GOP senatorial campaign committee. But, he adds, "We want to make sure we have candidates on the ballot in the best position to defeat the Democrat candidate."
Infighting Jeff Swensen / Getty Images