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Why did tea partyers surrender? Because January will be different, they say. (+video)

The government shutdown ended and the debt limit was raised without Republicans getting anything in return. But two things will have changed when the fight resumes next year, tea party lawmakers say.

Tea party memebers not worried by decline in polls
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Tea party Republicans emerged from the budget battle whose terms they had defined weary, battered, and with nothing to show for the fight beyond having fought it – and for some, that’s a victory.

After 16 days of a partial government shutdown, Republicans failed to force the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House to defund, delay, or even discuss the president’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare. 

But the takeaway for a core group of conservative lawmakers is that the next spending fight, on track for mid-January, will play out on more favorable terms for hardline conservatives.

Be sure, for them, this isn't over. Not by a long shot.

Their argument, which was taking shape even as their failure to extract concessions from President Obama this week was becoming plain, turns on two points. They believe the more time Americans have living with the consequences of health-care reform, the more sympathetic they will be to efforts to defund it. And they argue that by early next year, many of the Republicans who criticized their hardline approach may be facing well-funded 2014 primary opponents from the right, and may feel compelled to switch their allegiances.  

“The debt will be bigger and Obamacare will be more unpopular,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R) of Ohio, at a luncheon for conservatives hosted by the Heritage Foundation on Day 16 of the shutdown.

By Jan. 15, when a new stopgap government funding measure runs out, Americans will have had another two months to see how the Affordable Care Act plays out. If glitches in the rollout aren’t resolved, and if people lose their employer coverage, face higher insurance costs, or come to believe that the new law is costing good, full-time jobs, they will see this week’s lost battle in a new light, tea party lawmakers say.

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