I see the Tea Party as the extreme wing of the Republican Party, not unlike the extreme left was for the Dems after LBJ. The struggle between winning and standing for 'your principles' didn't go well for the Dems- doesn't seem to be going very well for the Repubs now.
A measure of the strength the Tea Party has was seen in the Congressional races. In both houses the GOP lost seats. This is significant because many key Tea Party players were tepid toward the Presidential race but swore great efforts to turn Congress Red. Senator DeMint was quite vocal about concentrating his efforts on the Senate races and the GOP lost two seats! Have not heard much from the usually not so shy DeMint!
Karl Rove is not known for accepting personal responsibility when things go south but his extremely expensive efforts to turn key races for the GOP was a bad flop.
While some will continue the 'Takers have won' or the 'gifts won' the GOP sounds like it is at least starting to study the loss past talking points.
The public stance on the cliff sounds tough and unrepentent, but I see signs it is a front... time will tell and we don't seem to have a bunch of that left.