After all of the analysis posted in the past three days, it appears as though everything ended up roughly how everyone expected. Sadly, this includes Nate Silver, who I certainly hoped would have been fired this morning.*
The few takeaways from the election results:
1. The only pickups from 2008 were Indiana and North Carolina. Indiana wasn't considered a swing state, and North Carolina just barely was. However, even for those states that seemed to be trending Romney--mostly Colorado and Virginia--went for Obama for quite a few percentage points.
2. The biggest surprise to me was Florida, where Romney led in nearly every poll up until the last day or so. Technically, as of this writing, it has yet to be resolved, but it looks nearly impossible for Romney to win it. Less importantly, I expected Wisconsin to be a lot closer than it was.
3. The Democratic Senate candidates appear to have done much better than expected, and with good reason--the GOP candidates were of pretty poor quality. I think this was one of the things everyone already knew, because I never saw any serious pundit stating that the Republicans would gain all that much.
4. About the only Senate race I cared about was Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren won. I think Warren is one of the least economically literate individuals to get elected in proportion to her power, and no good can come of it. But Massachusetts will keep electing her forever now.
5. Paul Ryan appears to have been ineffectual. Vice Presidential candidates rarely make much of a difference (at least for the positive) but a Marco Rubio or even Condi Rice certainly would have been a better pick.
Personally, I think this was Romney's race to lose, but Romney didn't seem like he cared at all up until about a month ago. This is not like 2008, where no Republican stood a chance. Part of this was Romney's inability to convince people he had anything to offer besides something that wasn't Obama, but part of it was a lot of distractions--namely, from Senate candidates who couldn't keep their mouth shut and some dazzling issue-framing on the part of the Democrats (namely, Romney's tax returns and the War on Women). While these sideshows weren't Romney's fault, he didn't have the ability to convince people otherwise and was unwilling to be more forceful about countering them.
Romney should have campaigned with the promise that he would be a center-right technocrat, much like how he governed Massachusetts. This probably would have been a reasonable strategy: no new bold initiatives or controversial changes, but just getting a bunch of smart people in a room to solve economic problems and letting everything else sort itself out. He didn't do this in any meaningful sense.
As for what this means for the next four years of the Obama presidency or the future of the Republican party--well, we shall see.
*Not that I think Nate Silver's analysis is particularly wrong, although I think some of his stuff was pretty shaky. It's just that Silver has somehow managed to convince the pundits (i.e., New York intellectuals who basically control print media in the US) that he is the second coming of analysts, when in reality his track record is about the same as everyone else's.