After what can only be described as a devastating GOP loss in the 2006 midterms, the question is where the party goes from here. There's a good case to be made that the GOP needs to move to the middle, and I know that some of the main-street Republicans are thinking of that direction. On the flip side, there are those who say the GOP lost because it became "Democratic-lite". So, will the party shift to the center or tack right?
But I don't really think that's the right question. Paradoxically, I think the GOP needs to do both, and that's going to be a big problem. I've been blogging for quite some time on the schism forthcoming in the Republican Party. The problem isn't that the party is too conservative or too moderate. The problem is the coalition it built over the past few years (decades, perhaps) is falling apart at the seams. If they turn to the middle, the GOP will lose some of its base and will not meaningfully be able to distinguish themselves from Democrats. If they run hard to their base, they'll drive any remaining centrists out of their camp and become a purely regional (and, let's face it, sectarian) party. The set of ideological commitments the GOP currently holds cannot support a majority coalition anymore.
That notwithstanding, the party is going to pick the "turn right" option, for no other reason than that the number of elected GOP moderates left to present a case is virtually non-existant (the tally I've heard is that there are 8 remaining bona fide moderate Republicans in the House, out of caucus numbering close to 200). Most of the last of them were swept out in this Democratic wave, and I don't think the GOP is optimistic about regaining seats in Connecticut or suburban Pennsylvania. The biggest GOP names still in office are conservative die-hards, so of course they're going to push the party in that direction.
Over the long term, this is more dangerous for the GOP, because it again will relegate them to a predominantly regional party status. It also will prove ill-suited to stop the emerging Democratic machine in the Mountain West, which is starting to reassert its long dormant libertarian streak (beating back the abortion ban in South Dakota, gay marriage ban winning by only 4 points in the same). There is a feedback loop--it is the marginal Republicans who will get defeated, concentrating power in the conservative strongholds, who will continue to push the party to the right. This will make it very hard for the GOP to regain power, because it won't have a presence or credibility in the states it needs to get back.