Before Republicans went looking for answers Tuesday night, some of them went looking for the remote.
When it became clear about midnight that President Barack Obama was safely on the way to re-election, a handful of cranky and inebriated Republican donors wandered about Romney's election night headquarters, angrily demanding that the giant television screens inside the ballroom be switched from CNN to Fox News, where Republican strategist Karl Rove was making frantic, face-saving pronouncements about how Ohio was not yet lost.
Rove was wrong, of course.
But the signs of desperation inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Tuesday night were symptomatic of a Republican Party now standing at a crossroads, with not much track in sight.
How did Romney lose a race that seemed so tantalizingly within reach just one week ago?
"We were this close," one of Romney's most senior advisers sighed after watching the Republican nominee concede. "This close."
Little support from young, minorities
Some answers are easy.
Romney lost embarrassingly among young people, African-Americans and Hispanics, a brutal reminder for Republicans that their party is ideologically out of tune with fast-growing segments of the population.
Obama crushed Romney among Hispanic voters by a whopping 44 points, a margin of victory that likely propelled the president to victories in Nevada, Colorado and possibly Florida.
The stunning defeat alarmed Republicans who fear extinction unless the party can figure out how to temper the kind of hardline immigration rhetoric that Romney delivered during his Republican primary bid.
"Latinos were disillusioned with Barack Obama, but they are absolutely terrified by the idea of Mitt Romney," said GOP fundraiser Ana Navarro, a confidante to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.
Sandy upsets campaign 'momentum'
Beyond the ugly math staring them in the face, Romney's top aides and the Republican heavyweights who populated the somber ballroom Tuesday evening offered an array of explanations for their loss.
With some of them double-fisting beers and others sipping bourbon, members of Romney's team blamed several factors that were, in some ways, beyond their control.
Many campaign aides pointed the finger at Sandy, the punishing superstorm and October surprise that razed the East Coast and consumed news coverage for what was supposed to be the final full week of campaigning.
It upset the dynamic of a campaign that had been reset during the first debate in Denver, where Obama delivered a wilting-flower act in full view of the American populace that allowed Romney to seize control of the race and set the terms for the final fall sprint.
The storm, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told CNN on Sunday, "broke Romney's momentum."
After being criticized in the media for focusing on "small things" like Big Bird and "Romnesia," Sandy offered Obama a chance to once again look presidential.
There also are very real hard feelings inside the Romney camp about the way New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, seemed to lavish praise on Obama in the wake of Sandy's destruction, allowing Obama to appear bipartisan just as Romney was attacking him for being petty and partisan.
"He didn't have to bear hug the guy," complained one Romney insider.
"It won't be forgotten easily," grumbled another about Christie.
Social conservatives blame squishy positions
As Romney aides began the soul-searching that usually follows a loss, Republicans outside the campaign began pointing fingers at the team.
Some social conservatives were quick to rip open barely healed wounds, claiming that Romney's squishy positions on abortion and same-sex marriage -- closely scrutinized during both of his Republican primary campaigns -- left grass-roots Republicans uninspired.