NEW ORLEANS -- In Bibb County, Ala., on Tuesday, a Democrat named Walter Sansing was in a race for county commissioner against a Republican named Charles Beasley, who was on the ballot despite the inconvenience of having died several weeks earlier. Mr. Beasley won.
That is what kind of Election Day it was in the South. Elsewhere Republicans may be wailing and gnashing teeth, but in the mid- and Deep South states, they had yet another cycle of unchecked domination.
For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans took over the Arkansas legislature, and won the state's last United States House of Representatives seat held by a Democrat. North Carolina elected a Republican governor and took over at least three Congressional seats. The last Democrat in a statewide office in Alabama was defeated. In most Southern states, the margins of victory for Mitt Romney were even larger than the lopsided margins for John McCain four years ago.
"It was kind of weird on Wednesday for Republicans here," said Jason Tolbert, a conservative blogger and a columnist for The Arkansas News Bureau. His conclusion: "In Arkansas, we're a right-of-center state in a nation that's drifting further and further to the left."
Despite the local victories, Republicans in the South are aware that many of the post-election analyses have found the party's image problems to be in the approach and the appeals that have led to its near total victory here. Southern Republican politicians continue to cruise smoothly to victory on the votes of white, socially conservative evangelicals. While some leaders have succeeded with a more centrist platform, like Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a large part of the Southern electorate still rewards politicians who promise to crack down hard on criminals and illegal immigrants, assume a defiant tone when speaking about the federal government and dismiss the idea of gay rights out of hand.
Nationally, this approach has been putting up diminishing returns.
In Maine, Maryland and Washington, referendums on gay marriage passed. In Alabama, voters selected Roy Moore, who said that same-sex marriage would lead to "the ultimate destruction of our country," as chief justice of the State Supreme Court.
Many Southern Republicans said that the lessons of Tuesday could be overlearned, and that the message was not the problem -- it was the messengers, or at least the messaging.
"I don't think for a second Republicans ought to change what we believe and what we stand for," said Andy Taggart, a lawyer in Madison, Miss., and a former executive director of the state Republican Party. "I do think we could do a more effective job of communicating that."
Nearly everyone admits that the party will have to broaden its demographic appeal. But for state-level politics across much of the region, there is no reason to be in a hurry. The racial and partisan divide is nearly absolute in the Deep South, with a Democratic Party that is almost entirely black and a Republican Party that is almost entirely white. That electoral math favors the Republicans -- for now.
Hispanics are moving in ever greater number to the region, having already put Florida in play and given some long-term optimism to Democrats in Texas, Georgia and even South Carolina. And in any case, politics does not take place in a vacuum. Strict laws aimed at illegal immigrants in Alabama and Georgia -- and more crucially, the often hard-nosed talk that surrounded them -- may remain widely popular in those states, but some say they are hurting the Republican brand nationwide.
"You may consolidate support in a very limited region of the country," said Fernand Amandi, managing partner of Bendixen & Amandi International, a public opinion research firm that specializes in the views of Hispanics. "But the century and the times and the demography are quickly passing the Republicans by."
Some former Southern governors, like Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Jeb Bush of Florida, have encouraged a softer stance on immigration, arguing that key planks in the Republican platform could be attractive to Hispanic voters. But as Gov. Rick Perry of Texas learned in the Republican primary, much of the party's faithful want not only tough laws on immigration but tough talk as well.
Any incentive for Southern Republicans to change is minimized by the fact that the current approach is working so well. The success of Democrats and liberal initiatives at the national level provides appetizing political fodder to Southern Republicans. The more national Democrats who back same-sex marriage, the harder it will be for Southern Democrats to win. But national political victories have local policy consequences.
"If the Republicans don't adapt and the Democrats become the dominant party, the government is going to start imposing policies on the Southern states," said David A. Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Changing direction, even simply changing tone, is particularly difficult for a party that identifies itself as one of moral values, not of mere policy ideas. In Tennessee, which has among the highest percentages of evangelical voters in the country, the perception that a candidate shared a voter's values was the key factor in who got that resident's vote, said Ken Blake the director of the Office of Communication Research at Middle Tennessee State University.
"The national party has to change fast, and so what happens as the national party begins backpedaling?" he asked. "How are they going to keep that local coalition if nationally they're something else?"
This is exactly what troubles some of the South's staunch social conservatives, who wonder whether the party in the coming years will feel compelled to put politics over principles.
The Rev. Brady Cooper, the pastor of New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., said he had heard acquaintances in the days since the election speculating that social issues cost the Republicans the White House. To a degree, they were probably right, Mr. Cooper said. But he said that he could not abandon his values to win elections, and was increasingly moving away from politics.
"I'm kind of disillusioned more and more with the political process," Mr. Cooper said. "One of their top priorities is being re-elected, and that kind of drives a lot of decisions that they make. And it means obviously going with the trends of the culture as opposed to the truth."
Correction: November 12, 2012, Monday
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Congressional seats taken over by Republicans in North Carolina. They took over at least three seats, not two. (Another Congressional seat is still being counted.)
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.