Republicans looking for a comeback have yet to come to terms with a basic fact in today's polling: Obama's strongly favorable personal ratings.
Too much of what passes for sea changes in public opinion on policy are in fact residual effects of a narrow partisan advantage magnified by the huge personal popularity of that party's leader. This is how JFK's political position was never seriously dented or in doubt. Or how Ronald Reagan always seemed to bounce back from serious political crises. In Reagan's case, the Gipper's personal magnetism created an opportunity to move the country to the right. Obama is now doing the same for the left.
The tale of the tape is indeed telling here. Obama's personal popularity stayed remarkably stable throughout the course of the campaign, and the average unfavorable rating barely ever cracked 35%. Obama the campaigner looks downright polarizing compared to Obama the President, who now sports a 65/25 fav/unfav in the Pollster.com average.
Why is this important? Republicans right now haven't the slightest idea of how to reduce the President's appeal because they've never actually done it before. It would be one thing if Obama had become a controversial figure during the campaign, like Bill Clinton did in 1992, providing fodder for a comeback once he did get into office, but that possibility scarcely exists today.
While personality may not be everything, and real-world policy outcomes provide opportunities for inflection points, it rarely ever works out that a President's policy agenda is unsuccessful while he remains personally popular. Yes, there are weird situations where a President might be personally loathed (Clinton post-Monica) but politically successful, but not (that I know of) the other way around.
While attempts to remake Republican policy may be all well and good, to pretend the American people will listen to new policy ideas in a vacuum, without reference to their satisfaction (or lack thereof) with Obama is silly.
This hopelessness with respect to Obama's popularity might be cause for more long-ball type thinking and for cultivating charismatic young leaders who too can put an attractive face on conservative ideas, not for seeking short-term tactical wins. Paradoxically, the more irrelevant Republicans become, the easier it is (or should be) to think outside the box. And it is in this intellectual ferment that a comeback will be born.