For months before last week's election, Sandra Fleming's agitation grew about President Barack Obama's prospects for a second term.
"I was so worried because my impression was that they were going to get away with stealing this election," Fleming said of the Republican Party. "When I heard that Taggart [which makes voting machines] was bought by [Tagg] Romney, I was like 'Oh God, they're really going to steal it.'"
So she decided to be proactive and volunteered to work at an Obama campaign office in Maryland on a phone bank. It was only after several television stations called the race for Obama on the night of Nov. 6 that she finally exhaled.
As satisfied as Fleming and her husband James are about the outcome, Republicans are in a state of shock at the sound thrashing Obama inflicted on GOP challenger Mitt Romney. Obama swept the Electoral College, amassing a final total of 336 votes and he garnered 50.3 percent of the vote to Romney's 47 percent. It wasn't supposed to turn out this way and all that was left to make their joy complete was Romney's coronation.
Now, instead of Romney measuring the windows of the White House, Republicans are left to contemplate the reasons why they fared so poorly.
Political commentator Armstrong Williams said Republicans can't blame anyone but themselves for the stunning election loss.
"To put it mildly, many in the GOP were not pleased with the outcome of [Tuesday's] elections," said Williams. "This represents a national repudiation of reality: we have tossed out the doctor because we don't like his prognosis. The spending addict does not want an intervention; he wants more spending, no matter what."
"...The Democrats have a mandate to govern, and Republicans are now in an uncomfortable position everywhere. The policies of the last four years have been not only affirmed but, with these ballot initiatives, shown to now be mainstream," he explained. "Our nation's culture has shifted to the Left, validating that self-fulfilling epithet of 'Republican extremism.'"
Lee Saunders, president of the 1.6 million strong American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was exultant.
"This is a good day for the working middle class, the Main Street movement and the American Dream," he said following Obama's victory. "The American people sent a clear message that we will stand with a president who stands with all Americans ... the voters have given a mandate to protect vital programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid and strengthen the middle class."
Republicans on the whole are shell shocked, Newt Gingrich is dumbfounded by Obama's win, Karl Rove refuses to accept it; and the finger-pointing, accusations, and infighting is in full tilt.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal [R], said some candidates had damaged the party's brand with their intemperate statements and he chastised the GOP for being too beholden to the rich and powerful.
"We've got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything," he said. "We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys."
Meanwhile, Obama met with liberal and progressive supporters Tuesday, with members of the business community Wednesday, and on Friday, Nov. 16 was scheduled to meet House Speaker John Boehner [R-Ohio] to begin negotiations on averting the crisis of the country falling off the "fiscal cliff." On December 31, automatic spending cuts and tax increases will be triggered if Congress and Obama fail to seal a deal. According to the Congressional Budget Office, families would pay an average of about $2,000 more next year, an estimated three million jobs would be lost and unemployment would ratchet up to nine percent. Also, America could fall into another recession.
Boehner has indicated a willingness to talk but he is opposed by anti-tax Tea Party members.
In an hour-long teleconference Monday morning, former Clinton White House Counsel Lanny Davis and former GOP Chairman Michael Steele discussed the election and the way forward.
Steele castigated the Republican Party and said it needs to be overhauled or face the prospect of being the minority party for the foreseeable future.
"This is perhaps the most tortured experience I've ever seen a party go through," said Steele, a lawyer who served as Republican National Committee Chairman from 2009-2011. "It becomes painfully obvious that there's an internal struggle as to identity and ideas."
"You realize that something different is happening in American politics," he added. "Now we begin the recriminations and finger-pointing. My estimation: Cut the crap out and recognize your message is tone deaf for many voters and your brand isn't as strong as it once was. The country is moving in a different direction. Fifty thousand Hispanics are turning 18 every month. What is the party prepared to do?"
Davis, who with Steele is co-founder of Purple Nation, a bipartisan public affairs firm, credited Obama's formidable ground game, the broad coalition of support and a campaign which executed "the best media, political and grassroots campaign in eight states."
Davis, former White House counsel in the Clinton administration, said the Simpson-Bowles plan is the only one that can get bipartisan support. Simpson-Bowles was a commission appointed by Obama which advocates a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to balance the budget. Steele, who said he hates the word 'bipartisan,' said he wants Republicans to seek consensus without sacrificing their principles and values.
Far from the political fray, Fleming, a 40-year-old mother of one, said practical considerations such as Obama's health care plan fueled her support.
"I had a fear not just for my child but also for my husband that they'd be kicked off our health plan because of their asthma," she said. "I would always be nervous when the provider called. I was extremely grateful when the Affordable Care Act became law. Asthma medication is extremely, extremely expensive."