For the Blue Dogs, Tuesday was a fire bell in the night.
Virginia Republicans led by Robert McDonnell crushed the most conservative Democrat nominee in decades, rolling up a victory that rivaled Ronald Reagan's rout of Walter Mondale.
New Jersey GOP nominee Chris Christie, whose campaign had been the despair of its backers, won a 5-point victory over Jon Corzine, despite huge Democratic advantages in money and voter registration, two visits by Barack Obama and the presence on the ballot of a third-party candidate who took votes away from Christie.
Maine has gone Democratic in five straight presidential elections. Yet voters overturned a gay-marriage state law, 53-47, the 31st straight victory for traditionalists. This replicates California's rejection of gay marriage, 52-48, in a year Obama carried the state by 24 points and 3 million votes.
Democrats see green shoots in the capture of New York's 23rd congressional district, which has been Republican since Ulysses Grant. Yet, even here, the conservative showing was impressive.
GOP candidate Dede Scozzafava is a fellow traveler of the Albany crowd of Gov. David Paterson. She is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro "card-check" -- a euphemism for eliminating the secret ballot for workers deciding on whether they want a union.
Disgusted with a choice between liberals, the Conservative Party put up Douglas Hoffman. While he did not live in the district, his views did reflect the district's views.
Hoffman was going nowhere, however, until the Tea Party and town-hall activists and Club for Growth sent contributions and troops. Hoffman got ignition when Sarah Palin joined Fred Thompson in endorsing him. He began a rapid ascent from last to first, dumping Dede into third place. When Dede fell to 20 percent, the weekend before the election, she dropped out and endorsed Democrat Bill Owens, who won.
Nevertheless, Hoffman had come, in a month, from nowhere to knock a liberal Republican out of the lead and out of the race and out of the party, and closed to within two points of taking the seat.
The good news for the GOP is that, despite the unpopularity of their brand name -- Republican identification is down to 20 percent -- this is no longer the impediment it was in 2006 or 2008. The 40 percent who call themselves conservative will rally with energy and enthusiasm to Republicans willing to go to their capital, be it Trenton, Richmond or D.C., to battle Big Government.
As for the Democrats, their problems are not easily soluble, in the short term.