Could the Tea Party Do More Damage Than Good to the Republican Party?

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ByABC News
September 14, 2010, 8:07 AM

Sept. 14, 2010— -- Voters head to the polls today in what is the last major day of primary races before November's midterm elections. But this primary season has become more than just Democrats versus Republicans.

The larger rift in a few states has come between Republicans and Tea Party-backed candidates.

Moderate Republican candidates in Delaware and New Hampshire are are facing tough challenges from Tea Party candidates. The possibility of losing both of the primaries has some Republican operatives nervous.

In Delaware, Christine O'Donnell is running against longtime moderate Republican Mike Castle, who is pro-gun control and supports abortion rights. O'Donnell has gained traction with Tea Party activists by highlighting Castle's moderate views and touting herself as an outsider in Washington. Tea Party darling Sarah Palin has also endorsed O'Donnell.

Republican leaders say an O'Donnell victory would destroy the state party and pretty much ruin any GOP chances of capturing Biden's old seat.

"I have no doubt if she, by some miracle, became the nominee, she would lose the seat by unprecedented numbers," Delaware Republican Party chairman Tom Ross said.

O'Donnell has even caused contention within Tea Party groups. Leaders of the FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group, refused to endorse O'Donnell Monday, saying they didn't believe she could win in November.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, a four-way GOP Senate primary battle heads to the polls today. The front-runner is former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, who has the backing of both the party establishment and Palin.

In recent weeks, however, Ovide Lamontagne has made a surge in the polls, with the support of Tea Party groups and the Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper.