GOP Chair Reince Preibus looked forwards towards the 2016 presidential campaign after the Republican's mid-terms"tsunami" with a measured outlook. He would have been justified in much hubris given the outstanding results in state houses, governorship's and congress but his professional eye sees the challenging Electoral College scenario.
Preibus said "a 2016 win requires an about perfect GOP campaign and he is absolutely correct in that assessment. For the Republican presidential nominee to get to 270 electoral college votes the finest of needle threading is required with every state on the possible list needing to be won.
The Democrat's start with the massive advantage of California, New York and the New England states giving them a substantial base to which only a few contestable states need to be added. For the GOP there is only Texas as a major bankable state with the entire farming states electoral votes just about equaling California.
So challenging for the Republicans is the EC battle that if Florida is lost then that's game over right from the start. North Carolina and Ohio are must wins as are Virginia and Colorado. Basically the core of the Bush 2004 states, with a small leeway from population shifts giving the equivalent to an Iowa to the GOP has to be won-almost without exception.
This is what a Republican victory in the 2016 presidential election would, realistically, look like;
Thus Colorado or Iowa are not essential wins if North Carolina and Virginia are won but if either are lost then, barring an unusual result in Wisconsin or New Hampshire it's game over.
The midterms hold out much hope for Preibus's "perfect campaign" to be translated into an electoral college win as the senate result map (Alaska is still not decided at this point) shows:
The brown colored states were previously held by Democrats, and were won on election day by Republicans.They are exactly the key states required to recreate the Bush 2004 win.
Iowa and Colorado,won by President Obama twice and North Carolina, won once, are absolutely key wins looking towards 2016. That Virginia which was also won comfortably by President Obama both times ended up, beyond anyone's expectations at an under 1% win to the sitting Democrat senator puts in very much in play. Even if Virginia were lost, New Hampshire,which went for Bush in 2004 could still put the GOP over the top-but, threading the needle indeed.
Looking towards 2016 the Republicans can take great heart from the midterms.Their ground game was as good, if not better than the Dem's, Priebus is focused on the fundamentals and they are competitive, in fact substantially so, where they have to be. What is required is a candidate who can bring to the polling booths the millions of conservatives who sat out the 2012 Romney election.
Running yet another "moderate centrist to capture the mainstream" hasn't worked and there seems little reason to expect it would in 2016. Sarah Palin, whose endorsement record in the midterms was a startling 19 out of 21 candidates winning the seats would be guaranteed to bring the missing voters to the polls.
She could not only recreate the Bush win of 2004 though conservative support but could also bring in the blue collar Democrats that Reagan did. There is no margin for error in a deeply challenging electoral college map and it would be tragic if, in search of the "moderate center, the party throws away the tremendous benefits of the 2014 midterms