The Grand Olde Party got its head handed to it last night. Any other interpretations are deluded, foolish, or otherwise stupid.

So, the obvious course of action is for the GOP to spend a few days — oh, a week at most — performing a perfunctory survey of the warm bodies closest to their leadership seats, and immediately anoint one of them to be the new face of the Republican Party. That’s the great thing about leadership elections, you know — no need to actually consult anyone resembling the actual rank-and-file of the Party. No need to actually consult the people who give the money, who work the campaigns, who actually, ‘ya know, cast the votes to keep a party in power. Or — who don’t.

Wrong. Very wrong. Amazingly, stupendously, staggeringly and absurdly wrong.

The reality of November 8, 2006 is that the Republican party no longer has control of the agenda in Congress. And yes, that includes the Senate — it’s over. The GOP doesn’t get to decide what bills will come to the floor. The GOP won’t control committees; it won’t control legislation. There is one, and only one, major decision that the Republicans have to make right now to influence how the next two years go — and that is who the party will choose to be their leaders.

This is a huge decision, and it is not one that should be rushed.

Hugh Hewitt agrees: “It is simply astonishing that a party in desperate need of its base’s time, talent and treasure over the next two years would hustle back to home base to consult each other on who should lead the comeback. In no other company or organization would a leadership change take place on such a schedule and with so little input from key constituencies. . . . The House doesn’t exist as an island independent from the party, but the rush to engineer a succession communicates an unwillingness to recognize the significance of the set-back yesterday.”

UPDATE: Establishing a “constituency of expectations.”