They stand in contrast to Paul, who clinched his victory over Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway while seeking to keep some distance between himself and party regulars. Initially, Paul was hard to pin down on whether he would vote for fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell for leadership. Paul eventually said he would.
"No matter what happens in the Senate, people are going to know that we're serious we're not going away," said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, an umbrella network of local tea party groups. The group would be holding orientation sessions for incoming freshman to "let them know what we expect of them."
Top on the list, said Martin, was to "defund in its entirety the government takeover of healthcare."
The movement, which began in February 2009 with a television reporter's rant against the president's plan to help homeowners, grew quickly into the most visible source of opposition to Obama's policies and the most active corner of the Republican politics.
Supported by longtime Republican operatives, a new class of grass roots activists organized hundreds of rallies, formed scores of local clubs, collected thousands of emails addresses and engaged in political training.
The result was a loose network of conservatives connected by the tea party or "patriot" label — and sometimes little else. While rising in prominence, the tea party also was shaken by internal power struggles and accusations of racism.
Some activists stayed narrowly focused on the issues of taxing and spending; others delved into obscure constitutional debates. Some argued that the movement should only advocate for issues, others actively endorsed candidates and jumped into the campaigns.
The latter found considerable success in the Republican primaries. Led by the Tea Party Express, a committee run by California GOP operative Sal Russo, tea party activists focused on primaries in small states where a relatively modest financial investment could have a large impact.
The group drove Angle's early surge, helped Joe Miller defeat incumbent Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (until she entered as a write-in candidate) and helped unseat Sen. Bob Bennett in Utah.
Other Republicans took notice, which is why some tea party activists say they don't need to see big victories on Tuesday to declare their movement successful.
"They're all talking to our issues," said Andrew Ian Dodge, a tea party leader in Maine. "The tea party has almost completely eradicated the discussion of anything but fiscal issues. We've moved the discussion to our way of thinking."