Conservative activists who once protested the political establishment are now flooding the lowest level of the Republican Party apparatus hoping to take over the party they once scorned -- one precinct at a time.
Across the country, tea party groups that had focused on planning rallies are educating members on how to run for GOP precinct representative positions. The representatives help elect county party leaders, who write the platform and, in some places, determine endorsements.
"That's where it all starts. That's where the process of picking candidates begins. It's not from [GOP leader] Michael Steele's office down. It's from the ground up," said Philip Glass, whose National Precinct Alliance is among the groups advocating the strategy. "The party is over for the old guard."
In Arizona and Ohio, Republican Party officials report an increase in candidates running for precinct positions, which often sit open because of a lack of interest.
In South Carolina, a coalition of tea party groups has made a formal agreement with the state GOP to urge its members to get engaged at the precinct level.
In this sense, the tea party activists resemble the Christian conservatives of the early 1990s, who started out as a separate and distinct movement, then folded into the mainstream GOP.