Gracious to the end. Mitt Romney: “The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.”

In the end, it was the status quo. “Barack Hussein Obama was re-elected president of the United States on Tuesday, overcoming powerful economic headwinds, a lock-step resistance to his agenda by Republicans in Congress and an unprecedented torrent of advertising as a divided nation voted to give him more time.”

The end of tea party Senate candidates? Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) in a written statement acknowledges that “it’s clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party. While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.”

The beginning of a new round of grand bargaining? Sen. Mitch McConnell: “Now it’s time for the President to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely-divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office. To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way. That begins by proposing a way for both parties to work together in avoiding the ‘fiscal cliff’ without harming a weak and fragile economy, and when that is behind us work with us to reform the tax code and our broken entitlement system. Republicans are eager to hear the President’s proposals on these and many other pressing issues going forward and to do the work the people sent us here to do.”

The beginning of the lame-duck session is around the corner. “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) extended an olive branch to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday night, offering to work together to avoid plunging off a the fiscal cliff.”

The beginning of the circular firing squad. “Now the inevitable question Republicans will ask is: What went wrong? There are certain to be rounds of recrimination and second-guessing as Republicans try to answer that question. Tea-party supporters will say the party erred by failing to nominate a standard-bearer who was a more reliable conservative than the once-moderate former governor of Massachusetts.”

The beginning of the Ryan era? “The Republican majority in the House was reelected after spending two years opposing Obamacare, Obama’s taxes, and Obama’s spending. This president spent his campaign attacking Mitt Romney as a person. The election did solidify one thing. The modern Republican party is the party of the Ryan Plan: No tax hikes, Reaganesque tax reform, and entitlement reform. Before today, many believed that entitlement reform was political poison.” Well, it’ll be interesting.