Republicans went ahead with Paul Ryan's plan to have everyone hate them…err, end Medicare, despite the fact that it polled terribly and has only gotten worse for them.
“The tea party itch has definitely not been scratched, so the voices who were saying, ‘Let’s do this in a way that’s politically survivable,’ got drowned out by a kind of panic,” a top GOP consultant involved in the debate said, on condition of anonymity.
This has been the basic issue with the Tea Party since they first started ruining town halls in 2009: movements based on ideological purity only have two places to go after the first burst of excitement. They either remain abject purists and self-immolate, ignoring the fact that they're a minority, or they start compromising on principles, which makes them more effective long-term but disappoints true believers.
Digby points to this as a failure of Republican leadership, but I think it's a phenomenon which was both utterly predictable and, if Democrats were a smarter party, a huge boon for liberals. Every conservative revolution ends up going too far and flaming out spectacularly. It's the nature of planning massive policy shifts around gut feelings and resentment – you end up trying to use an ostensibly democratic process to push through massive changes to programs that people are largely okay with, and "we didn't do it right because of the invisible Soros ninjas" only works for so long with so many people.