Even though most Tea Partiers insist they are independent from mainstream political parties, members of Wisconsin's tea party are openly working hand in glove with Republican leaders. Last month, the state's tea party groups held a convention at Wisconsin Dells in an event that could have doubled as an official Republican Party event. Speakers included Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Reince Priebus, Chair of the Wisconsin Republican Party. GOP House Representative Paul Ryan spoke via a recorded video message, and several GOP candidates for office circulated around the event seeking support. The two groups see benefits in working together: the GOP can provide tea party members with access to elected officials already in power who can help advance their issues, and the tea party groups offer a potential pool of motivated volunteers who can help Republicans work to defeat Democrats in future elections. But Republicans must walk a fine line in trying not to become too closely associated with the radical elements of the tea party movement responsible for the offensive rhetoric and actions occurring at large rallies and the nation's Capitol. The tea party is also trying to force Republicans even further to the right, which could hurt their chances with voters in November.
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