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WASHINGTON (AP) — What does a longtime Republican senator with a national reputation for working well with Democrats do in the face of a potentially career-ending tea party challenge?
If you're Richard Lugar of Indiana, you tell them to "get real."
If you're Olympia Snowe of Maine, you fight off the "Snowe Removal" effort by making key alliances with tea party activists and highlighting your record of fiscal conservatism.
And if you're Orrin Hatch of Utah, you woo them.
Lugar, Snowe and Hatch are all on notice that their approach to governance may no longer be welcome.
It's clear the tea party — not even 2 years old — isn't going away anytime soon after huge success in last fall's congressional elections. Dozens of its favorite candidates — Republicans who champion limited government and sharply reduced spending — won House and Senate races. Now, the tea party is empowered and turning its attention to vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2012. How the three GOP senators handle the tea party threat will go a long way to determining whether the outcome mirrors that of 2010.
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