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Palin launches Tea Party tour by telling Republicans to get on board

From Shannon Travis, CNN Political Producer
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Palin sends warning to GOP leaders
  • NEW: Palin says the Republican Party is "through" if it strays from Tea Party principles
  • The Tea Party Express launches its fourth nationwide tour
  • The cross-country tour will make 30 stops in 15 days

Reno, Nevada (CNN) -- Sarah Palin warned Monday that the mainstream Republican Party must embrace the core conservative principles of the Tea Party movement or disappear.

In comments to CNN at a Tea Party Express rally to kick off its fourth national tour, Palin said the Republican Party machine realizes how the Tea Party movement's "we the people" message has resonated on the political right, as well as with independents and moderates. The message emphasizes free market principles and individual and state powers instead of expanded federal powers.

"Heaven forbid the GOP machine strays from this message," said the former Alaska governor and unsuccessful Republican vice presidential candidate. "If so, the GOP is through."

Her comments, in response to the question of whether the Tea Party movement is dividing the Republican Party, showed how Palin and other Tea Party leaders are trying to galvanize the political right by bringing their supporters together with the traditional GOP structures.

Tea Party-backed candidates have defeated mainstream Republican candidates, including several congressional incumbents, in several primaries across the country this year. In some cases, the Tea Party victories have harmed Republican chances for victory.

For example, Palin backed Christine O'Donnell over nine-term Republican Rep. Mike Castle, a former governor, in Delaware's GOP Senate primary. Castle was considered a likely general election winner, but the primary upset by the inexperienced and controversial O'Donnell now makes a Democratic victory likely in the November 2 vote.

What is the Tea Party?

In her speech at Monday's rally, Palin said the Republican Party should "man up" and support Tea Party candidates such as O'Donnell, who has been criticized by some Republican figures, including longtime strategist Karl Rove.

"The bigwigs in the machine, they're driving me crazy because they're too chicken to support the Tea Party candidates," Palin said at Monday's rally. "The ideas of the Tea Party movement are the American ideals that will put us back to work."

Palin to GOP: 'Man up'

She also told the crowd to support Tea Party candidates for the good of America's future.

In her comments to CNN, Palin called for Republican moderates and independents to embrace the "time-tested truths" of "commonsense" conservative principles, but she also noted that "the planks in the GOP platform really are the strongest, most solid planks to build a strong economy, because it's all about entrepreneurial spirit and equal prosperity and opportunity according to a work ethic."

Her speech Monday followed an appearance Saturday in California with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

The Tea Party Express tour, titled "Liberty at the Ballot Box," is the group's fourth since 2009 and their last of the 2010 election cycle.

Their prime tactic is to crisscross the country urging voters to oust Democrats from office and purge the Republican Party of members deemed "RINOs," or "Republicans in Name Only," considered not conservative enough.

It will make 30 stops over 15 days, ending in Concord, New Hampshire, one day before the critical congressional elections.

Monday's crowd was considerably smaller than the last rally Palin kicked off for the Tea Party Express, in Searchlight, Nevada, in March.

Palin has lent political star power and considerable time helping to spread the message of Tea Party movement, which includes smaller government, lower taxes, deflating a bloated federal deficit and urging lawmakers toward more faithful adherence to the Constitution.

She and other supporters of the movement staunchly support Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle in the race against the top Democrat in the Senate: Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Polls show the race between the two candidates to be essentially deadlocked.

Democrats continue to push their own strategy to smack back the bids of Tea Party candidates. Vice President Joe Biden will campaign for Reid in Reno on Wednesday, and President Barack Obama will appear at fundraisers on Reid's behalf on Friday.

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