Leaders of the Tea Party movement hope outrage over the I.R.S. inquiry will rekindle grass-roots activism that in many places went dormant after big Republican electoral defeats of November 2012. They aim to link the current scandal to other government programs they consider overweening — principally the rollout of the health care overhaul law — and generate a Republican wave in the 2014 midterm elections reminiscent of 2010’s.

But the first step in that process, Tuesday’s rallies, suggested that future electoral success is far from inevitable. Many who showed up seemed to be old hands in the movement rather than fresh blood. Of a dozen protesters interviewed at one of the largest events, outside the Cincinnati I.R.S. office, which drew hundreds, 11 people said they were already active in Tea Party groups.

The demographic was similar at a smaller rally in Phoenix, where Harry Mathews described himself as a kind of itinerant activist visiting school board meetings and the like. “I get in my car and think, ‘Where am I going to today?’ ” he said…

“It all feeds into this narrative, which makes 2014 look a lot more like 2010,” [Kibbe] said. “We won’t have the clutter of a presidential race. We’re going to be able to connect with the broader values of Americans who don’t think federal agencies should choose winners and losers.”