The Republicans debate what went wrong. The obvious answer is that they did not have a message that resonated with the majority of voters. While Obama’s message (Change, Hope) was exceptionally vague, people were dissatisfied with the status quo and the message resonated. Countering that message with the “maverick” image apparently was not good enough. The Republican position on the issues to a great many people was indistinguishable from the Democrats and the Republicans did not appear to propose any significant change from the Bush policies. And the conservatives are too fragmented in their approach to the ill-defined “conservatism” to present any clear political philosophy that gives the voters an alternative, more optimistic view of the world. McCain was unable to distinguish himself from Bush and the Republicans were unable to distinguish themselves from the Democrats.
Last year Robert Bidinotto published an award winning article dissecting conservatism and identifying its fragments. His analysis is helpful in understanding why these people are having a hard time developing a unified approach. See “Up from Conservatism” linked here under Good Web Posts in the left-hand column.
The article below, Let's have some Real Change for a Change, explains why the Republicans are not able to distinguish themselves from Democrats.
In the U.S. we are in a Republic where the majority rules, limited only by the Constitution. If you can’t persuade the majority, your ideas -- even your ideas about the constitutional limitations on government -- can’t set the direction for the government because, as a practical matter, those limitations are only as good as majority support for them.
If you think that the ideas (or lack thereof) of the majority have begun to change the nature of the Republic, you need to become active and speak out in a way that will persuade other people to adopt your point of view. Either become vocal and politically active or stop grumbling, join the silent minority and suffer.