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Obscure export bank's fate traps GOP Senate hopefuls between party's tea party, business wings

In this Nov. 28, 2010, photo, the American flag is illuminated by the late afternoon sun as it is displayed at the entrance of the U.S. Export Import Bank in Washington. Familiar with the Export-Import Bank? In all likelihood, most voters in Louisiana and Virginia aren’t either. And yet Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is talking about the bank on the campaign trail, portraying it as a job creator that must be protected against tea party ideologues. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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In this Nov. 28, 2010, photo, the American flag is illuminated by the late afternoon sun as it is displayed at the entrance of the U.S. Export Import Bank in Washington. Familiar with the Export-Import Bank? In all likelihood, most voters in Louisiana and Virginia aren’t either. And yet Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is talking about the bank on the campaign trail, portraying it as a job creator that must be protected against tea party ideologues. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON - Familiar with the Export-Import Bank? Most voters in Louisiana and Virginia probably aren't either.

Yet Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu and Mark Warner are building campaign events around the bank's proposed reauthorization. They portray it as a job creator that must be protected against tea party ideologues.

The bank provides loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance to foreign buyers of U.S. products. Its charter expires if Congress doesn't renew it by October.

Questions about the Export-Import Bank's future are splitting Republican lawmakers and forcing tough choices in key Senate races.

Democrats see a chance to label their GOP opponents as beholden to the ideological right and at odds with the Chamber of Commerce, which supports the bank.

Opposing it are several conservative groups influential in GOP primaries and anti-establishment Republican circles.

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