GOP shouldn't overreact to a mostly status-quo election

I'm more disappointed than I should be. I was late to believing that Mitt Romney could win, but I got there. I even wrote in early November that I knew I had slipped into the fog when I realized that we Republicans were deciding that all the polls showing Romney with a lead were accurate and all the polls that showed otherwise were just plain wrong.

I still haven't reconciled all the data, but when you step back and look at the results, this was a status-quo election. The incumbent at the top of the ballot won reelection; the Republicans kept control of the House with minimal attrition; and the lost Senate seats don't represent a national downdraft for Republicans.

Since the popular vote was pretty close, it's easy to find reasons for the Romney defeat in various gaffes, or in the impact of Hurricane Sandy, or in this or that policy position. But a few key data points jump out at me, including:

Overall, about 10 million fewer voters turned out than four years ago. Romney got fewer votes in 2012 than Sen. John McCain did in 2008. For that matter, President Barack Obama got only as many votes in this election as McCain did four years ago. But this time, McCain's 2008 vote total was enough to win. Go figure.

Now that we've reflected on the 2012 election for all of four seconds, we urgently need to turn our sights to 2014 and, of course, 2016.

One good thing for the Republican Party is that a generational shift is taking place in the party leadership. You'll see a lot more of Sen. Marco Rubio, Fla., and Rep. Paul Ryan, Wis., and less of the members of the political generation who are planning their 70th birthday parties.

Part of our problem in this cycle was that Romney did not speak fluently to a modern, younger voter.

Already I've been getting e-mails saying there must be a massive overhaul of the party, whatever that means, and party operatives are calling for secret — or not-so-secret — meetings about how to "renew" the party.

Nobody should overreact right now. This is not the time to make decisions about the GOP's future or even to dwell on what went wrong Tuesday. We need to go through a period of mourning before we move on.

Remember that in politics, bad gets worse. This loss will feel and look much worse in six weeks than it does today. Obama will have a honeymoon period and Republicans will flock to warm beaches instead of sticking around Washington for the inauguration in January.