Although the focus is already shifting to the looming fiscal cliff, there is no shortage of soul-searching, blame-gaming and hand-wringing on the part of Republicans after Mitt Romney's stinging defeat on Tuesday night - and don't expect it to end anytime soon.
"This race wasn't a problem of candidate, it was a problem of fit," one smart GOP strategist told The Note. "The GOP no longer fits the modern electorate. We have fundamental issues with Latinos, young voters and women."
Another keen Republican political observer, J. Hogan Gidley, who was communications director for Rick Santorum's presidential bid, did not mince words with ABC's Russell Goldman.
"The Republican Party hasn't done a great job, and should be ashamed of itself, for not going after all Americans," Gidley said. "We can't take any one group for granted and need to look for ways to appeal to black and Latino voters." (Read more: http://abcn.ws/RKuAsM)
And Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist who worked on Mike Huckabee's 2008 campaign and Michele Bachmann's 2012 race, called for GOP unity: "This is a reminder to us that we need to rally together and solidify social, fiscal and national security conservatives."
And there will be recriminations in Boston too. Disciplined as they were during the course of the campaign, Romney's confidantes are already beginning to come out of the woodwork.
One top Romney bundler offered this blunt analysis to Politico's Maggie Haberman yesterday, "We had no message and we gave it to the worst communicator in the world."
And others, like the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, placed the blame squarely on the candidate who the party picked as their 2012 standard-bearer:
"He was never the right candidate. Plain and simple. The anti-Obama vote got him close but it wasn't enough. He wasn't a sweeping vision candidate. People weren't voting so much for Romney. People were voting more against Obama. It's tough to win that way." http://bit.ly/SMhVHh
The floodgates have opened, and we'll see much more pour out.
The Note's virtual political roundtable.
ABC's AMY WALTER: In some ways, Obama will have an easier time reaching a compromise with Boehner than he will with his own party. Minutes after the race was called for the president, liberal groups and activists were already lobbying Democratic members not to let a grand bargain threaten programs like Social Security and other popular programs.
ABC's RICK KLEIN: Yes, it's scary looking over the cliff. But the precipice is opportunity - which was always the point. House Speaker John Boehner's conciliatory day-after message on taxes makes public the offers that were in private last summer. It means Boehner and President Obama get a do-over on the "grand bargain," with a few dynamics different this time. The president had his referendum on tax hikes for the rich. The Republican Party has a grimmer view of its own future. And the consequences of inaction - the fiscal cliff's explosion of tax hikes and spending cuts - are more real to key actors (hello, business community) than even a debt fight that no one really thought would result in default.
with ABC's Chris Good ( @c_good)
BOEHNER WELCOMES BIG DEFICIT DEAL, PLEDGES TO WORK WITH OBAMA. More from ABC's John Parkinson: A day after holding onto his speakership and the House Republican majority, John Boehner signaled openness today to the inclusion of new tax revenue in a legislative package to address the so-called "fiscal cliff" as long as proceeds are linked to entitlement reform and spending cuts. But the speaker also indicated that he still prefers to wait until the next session of Congress to enact an all-encompassing solution. "If there is a mandate in yesterday's results, it is a mandate for us to find a way to work together on solutions to the challenges we face together as a nation," said Boehner, R-Ohio. "We can't keep setting the bar that low. It's time we raised the bar." http://abcn.ws/TN5RGh
SUN-TIMES: JACKSON, JR. IN PLEA TALKS. Without mentioning sources, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed writes, concerning Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s investigation by federal authorities: Sneed has learned U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who handily won re-election Tuesday despite a lengthy stay at Mayo Clinic for depression and bipolar disorder, is in the midst of plea discussions with the feds probing his alleged misuse of campaign funds. "No one has pled guilty, but plea discussions are ongoing," said a top Sneed source, who said Jackson is still undergoing treatment at Mayo Clinic. http://bit.ly/STehfw
2012: YEAR OF THE LIBERAL? ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports: the broader trend of Tuesday night's results was not just a victory for Democrats, it was a victory for the party's liberal base. Incoming Democratic freshmen senators like Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin (the first openly gay senator elected) are considered to be progressive icons, rising stars with the base of their party. They defeated well-known, moderate Republican opponents- Scott Brown and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson. … statewide referendums yielded results not generally considered popular with conservatives. … Residents of Maine, Maryland and Washington voted to legally recognize same-sex marriage in their respective states, marking the first time gay marriage was legalized by popular vote. (In states where it's legal, it had been passed by the state legislature previously.) And in Minnesota, a measure that, if passed, would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman was defeated. In Washington and Colorado, another milestone: the legalization of marijuana. In Oregon, a similar measure was defeated. http://abcn.ws/PG2UXJ
NASA DIRECTOR ON CYBERATTACKS: 'EVERYONE'S GETTING HIT.' The commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency sounds worried. ABC's Jason Ryan reports: "From my perspective, this is huge," [Gen. Keith] Alexander said at a symposium sponsored by the computer security firm Symantec. "When we look out there-the companies that have been hit-you look across the board: Everybody's getting hit. "In 2012, just some of them-Nissan, MasterCard and Visa: That should make all of us concerned," Alexander said. "[In] 2011, RSA, COMODO, Epsilon, L-3, Sony, Citi, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Google, Booz Allen, DigiNotar, Mitsubishi, Sony, Adidas-I had to bring that one in for our allies-Stratfor, Visa, [US] Chamber of Commerce." http://abcn.ws/UaaN4l
BIDEN: 'CLEAR SORT OF MANDATE' ON TAXES. Will President Obama have a "mandate" for his agenda, after winning reelection? VP Joe Biden says so, ABC's Arlette Saenz reports: "On the tax issue there was a clear, a clear sort of mandate about people coming much closer to our view about how to deal with tax policy," Biden told reporters during a question and answer session on Air Force Two. http://abcn.ws/TwGB4Q
OBAMA VICTORY SPEECH UPSTAGED BY 'HAIR FLAG LADY.' From ABC's Katie Kindelan: The upstager-in-chief got the coveted spot of standing just behind President Obama's shoulder as he spoke to thousands of cheering Democrats in Chicago and a worldwide television audience. WATCH: President Obama's Victory Speech 2012 What did she decide to do with the prominent placement? She stuck a flag in it - specifically, in her hair. As Obama used soaring rhetoric to remind the electorate what was still on his agenda for the next four years, "Hair Flag Lady," as she was deemed on Twitter, stood smiling with an American flag protruding from her head. The Internet quickly caught wind of the oddity and, in the tradition of all things viral, the woman became an Internet meme and a hot topic on Twitter, even among celebrities. http://abcn.ws/UkwrZK
-BERG CONCEDES. North Dakota Rep. Rick Berg conceded his tight Senate race against Democrat Heidi Heitkamp Wednesday afternoon, capping off a bad 2012 election for GOP Senate candidates nationwide. Trailing by 2,994 votes with 100% percent of precincts reporting, Berg had declined to concede overnight. He held a press conference shortly after 12:30 p.m. local time on Wednesday and conceded. "I just truly want to thank you for everything you've done," the Republican congressman told supporters, standing at a podium at an event that was televised locally, calling his experience running for Senate "something I wouldn't trade for anything."
-TESTER WINS, CLASS OF '06 SURVIVES. After the Associated Press called Sen. Jon Tester the victor in his Montana Senate race against challenger Rep. Denny Rehberg, ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports: Tester was first elected in among the class of Democrats who took Republican seats that year: Claire McCaskill from Missouri, Bob Casey from Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown from Ohio, Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, Jim Webb from Virginia. Democrats held on Tuesday night to every one of those seats they flipped back in 2006. Only Webb left the senate. He was replaced by Democrat Tim Kaine, who defeated former Sen. George Allen, the Republican unseated by Webb.
-SENATE WOMEN AT HISTORIC HIGH. ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield reports: Heitkamp's victory raises the number of women in the Senate to 20-a historic high. The previous record was 17. The record is no fluke: For the past year Democrats had anointed 2012 as "the year of the woman"-a message pushed out in 2011 by Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairwoman Patty Murray, who was elected in the first "year of the woman" back in 1992.
-SENATE UPDATE: DEMS GAIN TWO SEATS. With all races resolved, Democrats have gained two net Senate seats in an election year that had appeared to favor Republicans dramatically, with 23 Democratic seats and only 10 Republican seats up for election. With a 53-47 Democratic Senate majority (counting independents Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders), Republicans had eyed a majority takeover since early in the election cycle. Whether Democrats actually gain two seats after 2012 will depend on Maine's Angus King, who effectively replaces Sen. Joe Lieberman as the Senate's second independent. While King appears to be more friendly to Democrats than Republicans, he has not said whether he will caucus with them. Key losses in Massachusetts (Warren def. Brown), Missouri (McCaskill def. Akin), Indiana (Donnelly def. Mourdock), and the dual losses in tossup Montana (Tester def. Rehberg) and North Dakota (Heitkamp def. Berg) mark an abundance of missed opportunities across the map of competitive races. Democrats held all of their competitive seats (while losing in Nebraska) and made small gains that were considered unthinkable only a year ago. As DSCC chair Patty Murray reiterated on a call with reporters, every single Democratic incumbent one reelection.
-WHAT ABOUT ANGUS? The Senate-makeup numbers are a bit tricky. Strictly speaking, Democrats have gained two seats. But if we count the Democratic-caucusing independents as part of their majority, Democrats will only gain two seats (effectively) if Maine's Angus King decides to caucus with them. King is viewed as more friendly to Democrats than to Republicans, but DSCC chair Patty Murray told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that she has not spoken with King and does not know whether he will join the Democratic caucus.
CURRENT SENATE MAKEUP:
2 Independents (Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, both caucusing with Democrats)
2013 SENATE OUTLOOK:
2 Independents (Sanders caucusing with Democrats and Maine's Angus King TBD)
-AP CALLS ANN KIRKPATRICK A WINNER. The former Arizona congresswoman will return to the House after losing to Republican Rep. Paul Gosar in 2010, the AP reports: Former Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick has defeated former Republican state lawmaker Jonathan Paton to win Arizona's 1st Congressional District seat. Kirkpatrick had enough of a lead Wednesday for The Associated Press to declare her the winner. The race had been considered a tossup and featured millions of dollars in ad spending. http://bit.ly/UnAEvG
-ALLEN WEST NOT CONCEDING. The prominent tea-partier trails by 2,456 votes, and the Associated Press reports from Palm Beach, Fla.: U.S. Rep. Allen West was poised for a legal fight in his closely watched race Wednesday even as Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy declared a razor-thin victory. West, the south Florida Republican who has made headlines nationally for his fiery tea party rhetoric, filed motions asking a judge to require elections officials to impound ballots and voting machines. Separately, his campaign alleged "disturbing irregularities" at the polls and called for a recount. The conservative congressman has refused to concede, but Murphy seized on the projections of several news organizations, declaring himself the victor after a long and often vicious campaign. http://bit.ly/VHrvya
-NEITHER IS MARY BONO MACK. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday; Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack of Palm Springs, who is trailing Democrat Raul Ruiz by just over 4,500 votes with all precincts reporting, on Wednesday declined to concede defeat because of a large number of ballots that have yet to be tallied. "With more than 180,000 ballots still to be counted around Riverside County, it is premature to consider any election results final," said Marc Troast, the congresswoman's political director. "Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack and her campaign will be awaiting the impact of this large number of remaining ballots before making any further statements on the 36th Congressional District race." http://lat.ms/Z1Gf9X
8 SEATS YET TO BE CALLED:
AZ-2: Rep. Ron Barber, who won a special to replace Gabrielle Giffords, trails Republican Martha McSally
AZ-9: Democrat Kyrsten Sinema leads narrowly
CA-7: House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren (R) trails Democrat Ami Bera by 184 votes with 100% reporting
CA-36: Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) appears to be headed for defeat, trailing Democrat Raul Ruiz
CA-52: Rep. Brian Bilbray (R) trails Democrat Scott Peters
FL-18: Rep. Allen West also appears likely to lose, trailing Democratic newcomer Patrick Murphy (not the Pennsylvania Patrick Murphy) by 2,456 votes with 100% reporting
LA-3: In a battle between two GOP incumbents, Rep. Charles Boustany leads Rep. Jeff Landry 45% to 30%, with 100% reporting. ABC's John Parkinson reports it's headed for a runoff.
NC-7: Rep. Mike McIntyre leads Republican David Rouzer
CURRENT HOUSE MAKEUP (per House Clerk):
2013 HOUSE OUTLOOK:
@brbilberry : Openly gay Americans up to 5% of 2012 voters and supported the President by a 54-point margin
@HotlineJosh: There's a lot of Sandy denial within the GOP. Romney probably took a hit with indies, but given the demographic comp. wldnt have mattered
@karentravers: Today I will make a list of all the people I need to email or call back from the last 16 months….