"The tea party as a brand is dead in general elections. It's on death's door in primaries."

One conservative strategist, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said years of bad press for tea party candidates has eroded the group’s appeal to just about everybody—Republicans included. In polls this strategist has seen, with the exception of the most conservative states, a majority of GOP electorates no longer identify themselves as members of the tea party. Yet many conservative challengers still insist on labeling themselves part of the tea party.

“The tea party as a brand is dead in general elections,” the operative said. “It’s on death’s door in primaries.”

What’s important, conservative say, is even if those voters don’t identify with the tea party, they still hold the same values. Which means they’re still open to supporting challenges against establishment-friendly, moderate Republicans.

What has to happen then is those candidates essentially moving past the tea party frame. It’s not a revolutionary idea, some strategists argue, because it’s not as if challengers to GOP primaries didn’t exist before the tea party movement invented itself in 2009.

“The labels get stale,” said Chocola. “What doesn’t get stale is candidate’s ability to articulate fiscal-conservative principles.”