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Would tea party accept a Bill Clinton-brokered deal with Obama?

Chastened by Obama’s win, Republicans are taking a hard look at the impact of the tea party wing on the party brand. The real story may be whether that makes the GOP more amenable to a deal.

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Following the decisive victory by the man they vowed three-and-a-half years ago to pry out of the White House, the antigovernment tea party movement found itself reassessing its role within a fractured Republican Party that faced broad electoral disappointments on Election Day.

President Obama’s reelection represents the fifth time in the last six presidential cycles the Republican candidate has failed to win the popular vote. The GOP is now in full soul-searching mode, with the tea party especially facing criticism for its social and fiscal issue-driven co-opting of the Republican national agenda to which all contenders, including Mitt Romney, had to kneel during the primaries.

“In a lot of ways, the tea party movement was repudiated in the election,” says Joshua Dyck, a University of Massachusetts-Lowell political science professor and co-director of the Center for Public Opinion. “Part of the problem is that the tea party has had a hard time figuring out what it’s all about. Is it about Sarah Palin [social] conservatism or is the tea party about budget conservatism?”

Yet tea party activists across the US also awoke Wednesday with the knowledge that their small government agenda still wields significant clout in the House, through which Obama must take any and all plans designed to raise taxes and slash a runaway deficit and mounting national debt.

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