As resurgent Republicans served notice yesterday that they mean to take down President Barack Obama in two years and stymie his healthcare reforms along the way, signs were emerging of a civil war pitting old-guard moderates against the new class of purist-conservatives sent to Washington on a Tea Party wave.
Barely was the champagne drained after the seat-grab in the House of Representatives than recriminations were breaking out over the party's failure to take the Senate too.
Some blamed the party's right wing, including Sarah Palin, for backing extremist candidates who lost “winnable” contests.
“Candidates matter,” said veteran Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “It was a good night for Republicans but it could have been a better one. We left some on the table.”
Two states he surely had in mind were Delaware and Nevada, where Republicans respectively fielded Christine O'Donnell, who was dogged by witch stories from her past, and Sharron Angle, who became best known in the media for avoiding the media.
The dilemmas for the party's leadership are acute. Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, gave a nod to the new conservative caucus on Capitol Hill with a hardline speech at the Heritage Foundation in which he stuck by his assertion that getting Mr Obama out of the White House was his first goal.
But Mr McConnell and Representative John Boehner, who will almost certainly be the next House Speaker, cannot be sure that a confrontational approach won't backfire at the next round of voting in 2012.
For his part, Mr Obama took the alternative road last night, offering to host a summit of congressional leaders at the White House.