Marc Ambinder lays out the issues now:
GOPWars: Who Survives --> What The Party Looks Like - Marc Ambinder: To the extent that geography correlates with ideology among congressional Republicans, a major sweep by the Democrats could really be in a position to completely break the gluons that bind the broader party together. The GOP will lose a disportionate number of seats in the Northeast, Midwest and West and keep a disrportionate number of seats in the South. So the remnant of the party, as it were, will be right-wing Southern conservatives.... even more so that it is now.
Additionally, if there's an enormous Democratic sweep, the odds of a reverse sweep two years from now are slim. 2010 won't be like 1994, where Republicans allegedly punished a Democratic Congress and president for the health care debacle and gays in the military. (Would the nation dump 70-80 Republicans over two years only to return them to power two years later?)
One way to read the defeat of John McCain is that the Republican Party today is in a position analogous to that of the Whig Party in 1852, with John McCain having the same problems gaining the nomination this year that Millard Filmore did back then:
Millard Fillmore: Wikipedia: [P]arty harmony became one of his primary objectives [as president]. He tried to unite the party by pointing out the differences between the Whigs and the Democrats (by proposing tariff reforms that negatively reflected on the Democratic Party). Another primary objective of Fillmore was to preserve the Union from the intensifying slavery debate.... [He] announced his support of the Compromise of 1850... helped shift a critical number of northern Whigs in Congress away from their insistence upon the Wilmot Proviso.... [N]orthern Whigs... refus[ed] to forgive Fillmore for having signed the Fugitive Slave Act... deprive[d] him of the Presidential nomination in 1852.... On the fifty-third ballot, the Whigs nominated another war hero, Mexican-American War General Winfield Scott, as their nominee for President.
John McCain didn't want to be Millard Fillmored.
That meant that, once McCain had decided not to accept John Kerry's plea that he be his running mate in 2004, McCain had to tack hard right--he could not afford to give the Republican Southern wingnuts any excuse to do to him what the Northern Whigs had done to Fillmore in 1852. In the short run it worked. In the long run it did not work. McCain won the nomination by destroying his reputation as a bipartisan maverick and an honorable man. But now he finds himself with the very difficult problem of expanding his vote beyond the Republican base while having to explain why:
- his issue positions today are so different from his issue positions in 2001-2004.
- his running mate today is not his preferred running mate--Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.
- his issue positions today--the continuation of George W. Bush's policies in every dimension--are good for a country that has seen George W. Bush's policies fail for eight straight years.
After 1852, the Whig Party collapsed. Out of its ashes arose the Northern sectional Republican Party. Is the Republican Party now collapsing--will the legacy of the race-baiting sins of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan see it consume itself and see from its ashes arise an Evangelical Sunbelt sectional post-Republican Party?
There is one big difference between 1852-1860 and 2008-2016. The North then was 70% of the country. The Evangelical Sunbelt today is 20% of the country.