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Assimilating the Tea Party

Question: If the Rand Pauls, Ken Bucks, Joe Millers, and Sharron Angles make it to the Senate, for whom will they cause more problems -- the Obama White House or Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell?

NBC's Ken Strickland reports that McConnell and Senate Republicans are already thinking about ways how they can work hand in hand with the Tea Party class.

Key to McConnell’s success, added a former GOP leadership aide, will be to harness and channel the Tea Party agenda “in a way that’s productive rather than destructive or harmful to Senate Republicans or the country in general.”

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McConnell's strategy could include offering new members coveted slots on committees that serve their constituents’ interests, Republicans said. GOP leaders could also encourage new members to take a leading role in introducing legislation that addresses one of their campaign agenda items, but in a more scaled-back way.

For example, instead of trying to pass a bill that would eliminate the Department of Education — a much-discussed ideal in Tea Party circles but an almost impossibly unpopular one in practice — old hands in the Senate could help the newcomers draft legislation that makes dramatic reductions to its programs, something that might attract conservative Democratic support.

“You have to go out of your way to assimilate people and give them roles,” the GOP strategist said.