They had thought that America’s weariness with unemployment, depression and debt would guarantee a stampede of swing voters and disillusioned Democrats into Mitt Romney’s fold.
But the Republican Party was left poring over where its political message went wrong and how to remould itself into something all the more relevant and winnable to those their candidate failed to tempt.
White men, conservatives and older voters tended towards him; Hispanics, women and younger generations leaned towards Mr Obama. The future for the Grand Old Party, say analysts, will hinge on whether it can blend reformism with traditionalism, and balance old guard with new blood, to broaden its appeal without abandoning the qualities that still brought Mr Romney more than 57 million votes.
“The GOP needs to develop an agenda that is modern, reform-minded, one that speaks to the middle class and the challenges of this era. At the same time, it would be self-destructive for the GOP to jettison its core principles,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre who worked for both Reagan and Bush.