Still think the Tea Party movement helped the Republicans win this election? Electoral Vote (one of my favorite websites) makes a really good point that the Tea Party actually cost them control of the Senate.
Democrats held on to the Senate, but by the slimmest of margins. And what the Tea Party did, when they did win, was replace one Republican with a “Tea Party” Republican. But in two cases, Nevada and Delaware, the Tea Party Republican lost, and the person they beat in the Republican primary almost certainly would have won.
In Delaware, Mike Castle was so popular that he scared Joe Biden’s son from even running. But the Republicans picked Christine O’Donnell instead, who lost. Likewise in Nevada, Harry Reid, who is very unpopular, was able to hang onto his seat by painting Sharon Angle as a lunatic. That strategy would not have worked against the establishment Republican candidate, Sue Lowden, but Lowden lost in the primary.
That is two seats that the Republicans could easily have won, which would have given them a majority in the Senate (in addition to their majority in the house).
So right now, the only thing the Tea Party has the power to do is dig in their heels, block the budget, and shut down the government. When the Republicans did that to Clinton, it was extremely unpopular. If they did it now, it would cause the government to stop sending out Social Security checks, and — without TSA security screeners — would ground all air traffic. How long would that last?
UPDATE: The Democrats won an additional Senate seat in Colorado against a Tea Party candidate, which means that the Tea Party has now officially cost the Republicans 3 seats in the Senate. The Dems have also prevailed in Washington State, so they have 53 votes in the Senate.