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Conservative columnist Michael Barone said the tea party “brings some talented people into politics — think of Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson for example — but it also brings some wackos and weirdos and witches, and we put too many of them on the ticket.”

Mr. Rove weighed in by saying the “offensive comments about rape by GOP Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana gave the media an excuse to put social issues at the election’s center in a way that badly hurt the entire party, as well as costing Republicans two Senate seats.”

Tea partyers said establishment candidates also fared poorly in the elections, pointing to the losses of George Allen in Virginia, Connie Mack in Florida, Tommy G. Thompson in Wisconsin and Scott P. Brown in Massachusetts.

“More establishment candidates lost compared to tea party losers,” Ms. Carender said.

Whatever the case, Mr. Phillips said the primary job of the tea party in the coming weeks is to make sure that House Republicans do not surrender during negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff.”

“The problems we have with the deficit are not problems that result from a revenue shortage,” he said. “It is spending in excess. So we have to change the narrative and we have to get the Republicans on Capitol Hill to stand firm against not only new tax increases, which will destroy the economy, but also to cut spending.”