Michael Barone

But the Tea Party movement also supported some politically gifted challengers -- some with considerable political experience (Marco Rubio in Florida, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania), some with none at all (Ron Johnson in Wisconsin) and some with insider connections among conservatives (Mike Lee in Utah, Ted Cruz in Texas).

On policy, the Tea Party movement has had significant impact as well. It contributed to Republican unanimity against Obamacare and against tax-rate increases.

President Obama predicted that his reelection would "break this fever" of Republican opposition to his policies. Republicans would acquiesce in what Obama seems to regard as common-sense expansions of government.

That hasn't happened. Instead, policy has moved in the other direction. Republicans were willing to accept the sequester, despite spending cuts, and then to have it only tweaked slightly in the Ryan-Murray budget agreement.

Income tax increases have been avoided on all but couples making $450,000 annually. The result is what liberals call "austerity."

Meanwhile, Obama has been repealing and revising Obamacare, whether the Constitution gives him authority or not. His signature law is disintegrating.

So Republicans, though only controlling the House and squabbling over tactics, have shifted the vector of national policy. They have had even more policy success in many of the majority of states with Republican governors and legislatures.

Tea Party spokesmen are, unsurprisingly, dissatisfied with the results - as peace advocates often were by policies of even Democratic administrations. But in American politics, policy success is never complete and almost always unsatisfactory to principled purists.

Political reporters chronicling the exhaustion of the Tea Party movement focus on the apparent weakness of primary challenges to incumbent Republican senators and congressmen. None currently seems seriously endangered except possibly 36-year Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran.

The Tea Party movement continues to be frustrated by a politics-driven Internal Revenue Service and the intractability of Obama and Senate Democrats.

But Republicans have a solid chance to win a Senate majority, and Obama approval is stuck in negative territory. Big government liberalism, hailed as the wave of the future in 2009, now seems widely discredited.

The Tea Party obituaries, like Mark Twain's, are premature.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM