In the end it came down to the battleground states, and President Obama won most of them by slim, but decisive, margins.
Florida - Obama +1
Ohio - Obama +2
Virginia - Obama +3
Colorado - Obama +3
New Hampshire - Obama +5
Wisconsin - Obama +5
Iowa - Obama +6
Michigan - Obama +7
Of the nine battleground states, only North Carolina went into Mitt Romney's column and that by 3 percentage points.
As an interested viewer, the night started off with exit polls showing Obama with a slight lead in all of those states. When you've drunk the Kool-Aid, as I had, you simply don't believe them; or you remind others how wrong exit polls have been in the past; and/or you pontificate about the finer points of "poll weighting" (even if you don't quite understand them yourself).
The fact that the exit polls mirrored the late pre-election polls make your stomach churn and you have to first principles: In a close election it is better to be a little bit ahead than a little bit behind in the polls.
As meaningful results began be reported, it became pretty clear, pretty early that Obama would be re-elected. North Carolina took way too long to be decided. It should have rolled early for Romney. At about 9:30 last night about 80 percent of the votes in Florida had been tallied and less than a thousand votes separated the two men.
Virginia, one of the earliest of the swing states to close, was not behaving correctly. I thought that Northern Virginia might not have turned out heavily enough for Obama to overcome Romney's strength in the central and southern parts of the Old Dominion, but I was wrong
In my mind the game was up when New Hampshire went into Obama's column. That didn't give him the necessary 270 votes, but New Hampshire was one of the states where partisans like me convinced themselves Romney's late rush would make the difference.
So, what happened?
Hurricane Sandy appears to have had an impact; minor, perhaps, but in a close election (nationally Obama got 50 percent of the votes, Romney 48 percent) it might have helped people feel better about Obama in the same way that the first debate made people feel better about Romney.
But, there is a deeper issue that the Republican Party will have to deal with: The GOP is aging its way into, not minority party status, but minor party status.
Latinos between the ages of 34 and 65 went for Obama by about a 70-30 landslide margin. That's a little better than Romney's tally among White men and women, just under 60-40.
There were many more Whites than Latinos voting, but that margin is dropping and when you add in political active Blacks and other minorities the delta shrinks
According to a pre-election study by the Brookings Institution, the percentage of eligible White voters has shrunk from 76 to 71 percent just since 2004. Five percentage points in eight years and there is no reason to believe that arc will change any time soon.
Did the GOP nominate the wrong guy? I don't think so. But the primary process did provide ample ammunition for Democrats to remind their voters (or potential voters) that the Republican party did not represent their views.
In the past two elections Republicans have nominated at least four candidates for the U.S. Senate that resulted in what should have been easy wins to losses: Delaware and Nevada in 2010; Missouri and Indiana in 2012.
If the Senate comes back on January 3 with an effective 53-47 Democratic majority, you can see how important those kinds of mistakes can be: It should have been 51-49 R.
The Tea Party which began as a purely anti-deficit, anti-spending movement has morphed into demanding fealty to its fiscal and social policy positions.
The "right wing of the Republican party" has become a redundancy. It now IS the Republican party and there simply aren't enough voters who agree with all of the Tea Party doctrine to win a national election.
The future of the Republican party is in the hands of the Republican party.
A larger and larger share of a smaller and smaller market is no way to win an election, much less win the future.