The real blow to Republicans may be not that they failed to win the White House, but that they did not lose more heavily
FOR conservatives casting about for comfort, there are plenty of plausible reasons to dismiss talk of a crisis. Mitt Romney could have run a better campaign. He reacted slowly when Barack Obama defined him as a heartless plutocrat, and flip-flopped on policies so frequently that even campaign allies struggled to keep up. This was an election that maintained the balance of powers as they were, not a rout: if 65m American voters saw fit to hand Mr Obama a second term, fully 62m would have preferred not to sample Hope and Change, the sequel.
In congressional contests voters denied Mr Obama a mandate to pursue any more of the Democratic agenda, ensuring that he will only be able to propose laws that can pass both a House of Representatives that remains firmly in Republican hands and a Senate in which they will still wield the power of death-by-filibuster. Some Republican success, it is true, was down to recent shameless efforts to gerrymander the nation’s congressional boundaries. But that does not fully account for their roughly 40-seat majority. Besides, 30 states now have Republican governors, though state borders cannot be gerrymandered.
As for a disappointing slew of Senate races, conservative bigwigs can easily blame their tea-tinged grassroots for saddling their party with extreme candidates, such as Todd Akin in Missouri or Richard Mourdock in Indiana, both undone by intemperate comments about rape. Expect scheming by the party establishment to assert more control, somehow, over primaries.