WASHINGTON – Can this political marriage survive?

More than a half dozen tea party-backed candidates have captured Republican Senate nominations, and now the GOP is trying to bring their rebel supporters’ enthusiasm into the fold for November.

Republicans have little choice but to at least put on a show of unity: Alienating the antiestablishment tea party could undercut GOP efforts to post big Senate gains, perhaps even win control outright.

Judging by how quickly the GOP establishment embraced tea party nominees after earlier primaries in Kentucky, Colorado and Nevada, it may not take long for them to consider insurgent Christine O’Donnell one of their own in Delaware. The state’s Senate primary was the freshest source of Republican division after O’Donnell’s stunning upset of nine-term Rep. Mike Castle. He hasn’t yet rallied behind her but others have, including once and maybe future presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

And, after an initial curt reaction, Sen. John Cornyn’s committee to elect Senate Republicans made its support clear. “Let there be no mistake: The National Republican Senatorial Committee — and I personally as the committee’s chairman — strongly stand by all of our Republican nominees, including Christine O’Donnell in Delaware,” the Texas lawmaker said. He also sent her $42,000.

The message: The GOP has heard the tea party and is listening.

“Eventually you have to respect the will of the voters,” said Delaware’s Republican state auditor Tom Wagner, a longtime Castle friend who said the state GOP is still in shock. He said he’d campaign with O’Donnell.

It’s still not clear how soon – or even if – the state party will unify behind her. Said a GOP House candidate who lost her primary, Michele Rollins: “We’re going to need a little bit of time to kind of settle down. It’s pretty shocking to Delaware, because we’ve never had an outside influence come in and dictate the result.”

But there are less than seven weeks to Election Day, and the out-of-power GOP can’t afford to turn off tea party voters who, if they turn out, could carry Republican candidates to victory in six or more Senate races, including Democratic-held states like Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Delaware. Republicans need to gain 10 seats to take control of the Senate, although even GOP advocates say that’s a steep climb.

Although the primaries are over, tension remains between tea partiers and the GOP establishment in some states.

Indiana tea party supporters have had to live with former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats’ GOP Senate primary victory over their preferred candidate.

“It’s almost like a game of chicken: They know they need the tea party movement but it’s almost like they don’t carry us along,” said Monica Boyer, co-founder of Kosciusko County Silent No More, a northern Indiana tea party group. “We really are truly the same team.”

“There’s still a rift” in Oklahoma, said Al Gerhart, a co-founder of the state’s Sooner Tea Party that backed Randy Brogdon in the Republican primary for governor over longtime party stalwart Mary Fallin, who won the race. “There’s a lot more anger out there than the GOP understands.”

Democrats are sure to try to use the the division to their advantage.

“I do believe that what we are witnessing is sort of an implosion taking place within the Republican Party,” said Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

Given the stakes, both Washington and the Delaware Senate candidate were taking steps to bridge the divide quickly.

Cornyn and O’Donnell were planning to meet in the coming days, and she was to speak to social conservatives who make up the GOP’s base at the annual values voters gathering in Washington today. She also has been reaching out to establishment figures like former Delaware congressman and governor Pete DuPont.

There are indications that grass-roots backers are coming to O’Donnell’s aid. Her campaign says that she’s raised $1 million online since Tuesday’s primary.

But it isn’t yet clear whether the establishment support she’s getting now goes beyond lip service. Will the party show her the money?

The Karl Rove-backed outside group American Crossroads has run ads in Kentucky, Colorado and Nevada but hasn’t yet weighed in in Delaware. And Cornyn left open the possibility that Delaware may not get more cash, saying: “We will decide where to best allocate additional financial resources among the large number of competitive races at stake this November.”

His committee still must calculate whether the conservative O’Donnell, who is being hammered with questions about misstatements and inconsistencies in her background, can defeat county executive Chris Coons and win a Democratic-held seat in a state where the Democrats have the edge in voter registration. O’Donnell managed just 35 percent of the vote in losing to then-Senate candidate Joe Biden in 2008.

Early polling shows O’Donnell trailing. The NRSC’s money is limited, and Cornyn may decide Republicans have a better shot of picking up Democratic-held states elsewhere.