Sometimes it is easy to draw quick lessons from a defeat — but this is not one of those times. Frankly, the scope of this defeat, not just for the White House but in the Senate and down-ballot races as well, is enough worse than expected that it requires a lot more sober, and lengthy, analysis. Despite spending a billion dollars on the presidential contest, despite unprecedented “ground game” efforts by more outside conservative groups than ever, despite having a president with a horrid record to run against, the Republican presidential ticket looks like it garnered even fewer votes than G. W. Bush did in 2004, when something like 15 million more people now call the United States home than just eight years ago. The wonderful Bush effort then should have been a floor, not a ceiling.
Plus, the Senate results were atrocious. Bright new conservatives lost. Foot-in-mouth conservatives lost. Establishment retreads lost. Moderates lost. Way too many people lost, even in solidly “red” states. Republicans obviously are missing something.
The whole country is in for a rough, rocky, even frightening four years. Conservatives and Republicans must refuse to break key principles — but other than that, politically speaking, we need to take a little time to reassess. We’re doing something very, very wrong, or maybe many “somethings.” We might need a whole new strategic paradigm — and we need enough humility to acknowledge that, right now, we obviously don’t have the right strategic answers. We need some time to clear our heads. We just lost, badly. We’re not going to win again by making snap judgments about what went wrong.