Slamming the Republican Party establishment for tapping Mitt Romney as its standard-bearer, the co-founder of the nation’s largest tea party group said Wednesday the lessons learned from the 2012 presidential election will strengthen the grass-roots movement, making it an even more important part of the GOP’s future.

Jenny Beth Martin, of the Tea Party Patriots, said Mr. Romney’s loss to President Obama Tuesday serves as a stark reminder that “conservative” candidates lose if they do not fully embrace the limited government principles that the grass-roots movement embodies.

“He was a weak, moderate, hand-picked candidate by the establishment, the Beltway elites — and they have picked candidates repeatedly for years,” Ms. Martin said. “It does not work and it is time to find someone the next time who embraces our values.”

Tea party crash?

Democrats, meanwhile, seized on Tuesday’s outcome as proof the tea party movement has crashed to earth two years after fueling a Republican takeover of the House in an election result Mr. Obama described as a “shellacking.”