Yes, it's all sad -- and grim, and depressing -- but is Election 2012 truly the end of the GOP universe? Perhaps. But before giving way to unseemly hysterics, here are some thoughts to peruse:
* Timing is everything: This year, the Republicans needed new and appealing young talents to take on Obama, and that, as it happened, was just what they had. The upside was that in 2009 and 2010 they had a crop of new stars, all born to run on a national ticket. The downside was that they would be ready to start running in 2014 at the earliest. And so the most crucial of all nominations would go to one of a number of has-beens or retreads, whose experience was either old or irrelevant, and whose talent at best underwhelmed.
Mitt Romney, the best, left office six years ago, and had a liberal past, a financial career that had netted him millions, and, as the son of another ex-governor, seemed the image of white and upper-class privilege, minus the military heroics, medical problems, or personal tragedies that humanized the Roosevelt cousins, the Kennedy brothers and the elder George Bush.
Near the end, Romney became a good candidate, but he was always less than a good politician; a speaker in tongues that were not his first language, and a technocrat in a profession in which visionaries tend to win the big prize. His loss deprives the country of an effective executive, but it allows the next generation of the GOP, which would have been pushed aside for eight years or more if he had triumphed, to step forward now and make over the party -- a moment that can't come soon enough.
* The country has changed, but the next Republican ticket will have at least one, and possibly two, brownish-skinned children of immigrants, with inspiring stories of rising from nowhere to live the American dream. He and/or she (and "she" must be seen as a real possibility) will never have fired hundreds of people, will not be rich, will not be dogged by multiple changes on issues, will understand modern conservatism from having run and won on it, and also will be a career politician, unlikely to make the unforced verbal errors that haunted this campaign just ended. There are few such "diverse" stars in the Democrats' stable. Hillary Clinton, if she runs in 2016, will be 69, and unlikely to get the nation's young in a tizzy. In the next cycle, the dynamic that worked this year in the Democrats' favor -- race, youth and gender -- may be turned on its head.
* As I have noted before, Obama is brilliant at selling himself, but less good at selling his plans or his allies. This was his final campaign. In every run since his first, he has always won easily, but when his ideas face the voters without him, they tend to fall short. Coming off his huge win in the 2008 cycle, he was shellacked in the 2009-2010 off-year and special elections, shellacked even worse in the 2010 midterms, and smacked down again in the multielection Battle of Wisconsin, which ended with Scott Walker exceeding his original 2010 win. Coming off a tougher, grimier, and much smaller win in this cycle, will the Obama magic transfer automatically to some boring white guy two or more years in the future? Before you start crying, find out.
Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."