The idea seemed snarkily brilliant: Colorado Republicans would host their victory party at Mile High stadium, ending Barack Obama's presidency in the very location where it was launched four years ago.
But the expected cheers turned to shock. With only a few exceptions, Colorado Democrats rolled over Republicans, from the presidential race to state legislative candidates.
"There was devastation at Mile High for a party that has seen more than its fair share of difficult losses over the last decade," said former state Sen. Josh Penry. And this was the worst, he said, because there was so much agreement among Republicans and independent voters about Obama's failures as a president.
As dazed Republicans surveyed the Colorado landscape Wednesday, the most obvious question was "What next?"
That's a conversation Republicans in the Centennial State have been having ever since Democrats caught them off guard in 2004, winning control of the legislature, and a U.S. Senate and U.S. House seat that had been held by the GOP.
Republicans thought this time they had it right, with a more sophisticated get-out-the vote program and legislative candidates that could appeal to unaffiliated voters in the suburbs.
"They ran some very nice, likable people, but the reality is when you're running for public office, you're running on your party's agenda," said Matt Inzeo, spokeswoman of the Colorado Democratic Party. "That is a particularly difficult brand right now."
The soul-searching among Colorado Republicans on Wednesday was deep and painful.
Some Republicans believe that Obama's much-vaunted voter-ID and tracking program was even better than it has been billed. It began in Iowa in 2006, was tested nationwide in 2008 and improved on in Colorado in the 2010 U.S. Senate race between Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Ken Buck.
"When they write the book in this race, it will read like a science experiment," said Democratic political consultant Steve Welchert.
He said the Obama operation was so sophisticated that it could let down-ticket campaigns know how ballots from unaffiliated voters were likely to fall. In addition, Obama workers would text from the field that a voter had concerns about some issue and to call the person at this number.
Not all Republicans agree that the get-out-the-vote effort is the problem.
"We can improve our microtargeting more easily than improving our branding with huge demographics that don't particularly care for us," Penry said.
That includes Latinos, women, gays, teachers, labor, environmentalists and others.
Dick Wadhams, former chairman of the Colorado Republican party, said the "harsh rhetoric" used by too many Republicans about immigration has been detrimental to the party.
Elliot Fladen, a Denver attorney whose wife is from Mexico, shares that sentiment. Fladen is a registered Libertarian but supported Mitt Romney for president and works closely with Republicans on a number of issues.
"If the GOP had the 1980 demographic, Romney would have won this election in a landslide," Fladen said. "We don't have that demographic.
"To stop alienating the new demographic, the GOP needs to not use the 'secure the border' mantra and 'amnesty' misdefinition as excuses to avoid serious discussions on immigration. And calling for 'self-deportation' as a 'permanent' immigration solution is not the needed serious discussion."
Republicans said Latinos were hurt when the Republican-controlled state House this year killed a bill that would have allowed certain illegal immigrants to pay a tuition rate that made college more affordable.
In addition, Republican Mario Nicolais of Lakewood said the GOP is on the wrong side of equality for gays. The spokesman for a pro civil-unions GOP group, Nicolais correctly predicted in May that the fallout over the death of a civil-unions bill in the House would make it harder for the GOP to maintain the majority. Democrats picked up at least five seats Tuesday night, knocking out four incumbent lawmakers.
"I know that there are a lot of Republicans who have said, 'Look, why do we even have to talk about this? Can't we just talk about jobs and the economy? That's the important part,' " Nicolais said.
"But when people don't trust you to be compassionate about the people they love and the people they want to spend their lives with, they're certainly not going to trust you to be compassionate about jobs and the economy."
Penry said much bigger than civil unions is the issue of appealing to women. He pointed to Republican U.S. Senate candidates Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, whose comments about rape cost them elections they were expected to win.