Washington, Nov.5 : The Republican Party found itself Tuesday in a damp, earthy pit it had been digging for years, and climbing back out of it and shedding its label of incompetence, may not be easy.
"The first fact of the 2008 election is the failure of the Republican Congress and the Republican president," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"John McCain ran 24-plus points ahead of President Bush's job approval - an amazing achievement. This was a performance election not an ideological election," the Washington Times quoted Gingrich as saying further.
To recover its majority-party luster, the party will have to overcome a weak bench, a confused message and lack of a single recognized leader.
"Republicans owned the military and the war issue, but you have so many younger people military dependents from all over the country stationed or living here in western Kentucky," said Kentucky-based Republican campaign strategist Tim Havrilek, a conservative evangelical Christian.
"Patriotism and the flag don't cut it anymore, not with body bags being hauled off in plain view every week, military dependents feeling the squeeze of the economy just like everyone else, our military people going back to Iraq and Afghanistan five and six times," he added.
Universally, Republicans say the party needs to rediscover ways to develop leaders who stand out, either in the traditional limited-government Reagan mode or global-interventionist Bush-Cheney mode - or some new amalgam.
No GOP nomination contender came close to emerging as leader of economic conservatives.
Gingrich said that House and Senate Republicans ought to turn to creative governors like Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Georgia's Sonny Perdue, South Carolina's Mark Sanford, Mississippi's Haley Barbour and Utah's Jon Huntsman Jr. "to find new solutions for Washington."
Institute for Policy Innovation scholar Merrill Matthews thinks one hope for the GOP's future may come from the conservative think tanks.
Alternatively, the Republicans can sit tight, criticize the Democrats' every action and hope for a pendulum swing - the next economic downturn - to work its magic.
The last time the Republicans went that route, it took them 40 years, Gingrich and an overreaching Clinton administration to make it work.