The best hope for them was that they could return with serious entitlement reforms for Social Security and Medicaid, and maybe even Medicare.
I, among others, encouraged them to "go big" and throw in immigration reform if that is what it took to get the Democrats to finally deal with the Greece-in-our-future if nothing was done about federal spending.
Even a national sales tax devoted exclusively to debt reduction in combination with sweeping, immediate and enduring entitlement reform would have been possible to swallow.
Instead, two of the supercommittee's GOP members began serious negotiations by offering to carve up the three deductions closest to conservative hearts because those provisions promote home ownership, charitable giving and federalism -- and then expressed surprise that the conservative base is furious.
Some Beltway conservatives pretend that fury doesn't exist, and they cite the Wall Street Journal and various economists to prove that no one really cares about home mortgage interest or their churches, schools and research foundations.
Other defenders of the GOP tax hikes cite the looming "sequestration" of $600 billion from the Department of Defense, an obviously suicidal budget strategy -- a reckless, indeed, insane path to follow.
Let President Obama and the Democrats defend such a madness, and let them try to defend holding America's military hostage to NPR and Green Jobs.
I asked former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on Friday's radio show if he would campaign against such cuts if he were the nominee.
"Absolutely," he responded. "This is a Faustian choice that the president and his people have put in place. The idea of drastic cuts to our national security at a time when the world is as dangerous as it is and when, frankly, we have men and women in harm's way around the world is a terrible idea.
"Even Secretary Panetta, who works for President Obama, has said these cuts would be draconian," he added.
"I think it was a very bad idea to put our national security on the chopping block, and will, if elected president, reverse those cuts, and reverse the prior cuts that President Obama has made to defense as well," he concluded.
And that ought to be the response of every Republican to the threat of more massive cuts to the military. That sequestration is a nightmare for soft-on-defense Obama and his Congressional allies, not the GOP. The stall over entitlements is their disaster, not the Republicans'.
The only way the GOP loses this crucial battle is if they refuse to fight it, and not just this week and through the end of this year, but every day, week and month of the next year.
"Cut spending, shrink the government, rebuild our military, appoint good judges, build the fence, care for the wounded and the families of the fallen" is the short summary of the Republican platform in 2012.
Two dozen words is all the GOP needs if they mean them, repeat them and defend them.
It has to start this week, and not with convoluted explanations of offers and counter-offers. The Democrats don't want to reform the entitlements that must be reformed. They don't want to cut government; they want to cut the military.
They want to sacrifice the benefits of those who have served, including those who have been wounded and the care for their families and the families of the fallen. They want to protect NPR and Planned Parenthood, unions and EPA.
This is the true situation, and, astonishing as it is to most Americans, it is the reality of vast chasm that separates the two parties.
The supercommittee should dissolve, the campaign should begin and a clear choice should be put to the people.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.