Scholars and activists say it is a mistake to cite recent blows, including the shake-up at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks, as evidence that the movement has met its end. After all, most House Republicans backed by the tea party in 2010 were re-elected in November.

“The tea party has to be understood as a pincer movement,” said Theda Skocpol, a Harvard University political scientist who has studied the movement since its inception in 2009…

In 2010, Skocpol documented the existence of 900 tea party organizations that met regularly around the country. A year later, 600 remained. “That’s a big survival rate for voluntarily organized groups,” she said.

Scholars compare the tea party to the activists of the Christian right, who were first regarded as outliers in the early 1990s but successfully wedged conservative social issues into the modern-day Republican Party platform.