If McCain loses, as he's almost certain to, we're going to see two reactions. First, Steve Schmidt wasn't nasty enough. In the future, Republicans need to return to their Lee Atwater roots and really teach Americans what liberal treachery is all about. Second, we told you a RINO couldn't win. The conservative base will be convinced for years that the big problem with McCain was that he was trying to be a pale shadow of liberal Democrats. (Sarah Palin will be conveniently forgotten, or else finally seen for the tokenism she really is.) The nation still hungers for genuine conservatism, they'll say, and they knew McCain was a phony all along. If only the party had nominated a Romney or a Huckabee the public would have swarmed to their cause.
Here in Colorado we're ahead of the national curve, the GOP fell apart here in 2004 and 20006. What have we seen in response? A hunkering down bunker mentality just as Kevin describes.
The state GOP ditched the relative moderate Scott McInnis in favor or arch-conservative Bob Schaffer in 2008. This after they had bet on the moderate Pete Coors in 2004 over Schaffer. The state GOP apparently believed that the issue wasn't that Pete Coors was a mediocre candidate running against a very moderate Democrat who connected with rural voters. No, apparently the problem was that Pete Coors wasn't hard right enough.
After ousting the Colorado state chair to whom did the party turn? Not to a big ideas man or a proven fundraiser but instead to the man known as Rove 2.0 - Dick Wadhams. Again they chose to double downed on divisive politics instead of reassessing their messages and ideas.
In the state Senate we have seen Josh Penry become the face and voice of the GOP caucus and he has become increasingly strident. Many capitol insiders believed that Penry was a bright and fresh young conservative. He is now largely viewed as little more than a stereotypical right-wing conservative who seems to have regressed intellectually. The young star in the state House, Corey Gardner, is a bigger intellectual oaf than even Penry. You can always count on the team of Penry and Gardner to give you the standard GOP talking points on any issue on any given day and nothing more.
The only area where we have seen the state GOP adopt anything approaching a more moderate tone was in their selection of Mike May as House Minority Leader. It's pretty easy to be a less bombastic partisan than Joe Stengel but don't be mistaken - Mike May is a moderate guy in both tempermanent and politics.
Based on our experiences here in Colorado I'd say that Kevin Drum is probably correct in his speculation that a crushing 2008 national electoral defeat will not lead to GOP introspection or analysis of their failed ideology. Quite the opposite in fact.