It's my belief that the problem is Republican authoritarianism. They really only know how to follow orders from above and simply can't think for themselves. It's all about establishing who the big dog is, and all the little dogs will follow right along. And in this case, who else could have been the big dog than Bush? He was the president. They had already proclaimed repeatedly that anyone who doesn't support him completely is a traitor to our nation. Hell, the Dixie Chicks got utterly destroyed by most of their fanbase simply for saying that they were embarrassed to come from the same state as Bush. It just made sense that he'd stay in the driver's seat.
And more importantly, who would replace him? Even in this election, McCain clearly wasn't the leader of the party. Sure, they nominated him, but merely by default. It wasn't that he stepped forward, but rather that all the others stepped back (or got pushed back) and McCain was just the guy who stood still. And when an unknown lightweight like Palin showed up, she completely overshadowed him in every way.
And he was the strongest they had, yet most of the base was already praying that he'd die so she could take over. Yet Palin isn't a leader. She's just a defective chat-bot who can only recite strings of nonsensical talking points, and even then sounds pretty damn stupid about it. She doesn't know strategy and the only plans she has involve herself. She isn't going to lead the party into the future, and definitely couldn't have in 2006. Even if Republicans are dumb enough to follow her, she'll still need someone to tell her where she's going.
Too Corrupt to Succeed
And so Bush stayed the big dog by default. The few truly bright Republicans like Gingrich, Lott, and DeLay were too corrupt to stay in office, and all they were left with was the hand-picked lapdogs who knew how to growl on cue, but could do little more. They were picked for their obedience and ability to recite talking points, and now it's all they have. And so what else would Bush do with them than to have them continue to support him and pray that irreversible tides would inexplicably reverse?
And even McCain was a part of that. They were totally using him as a propaganda machine, knowing that he'd do anything to get Bush's blessings. And now with Bush in the toilet, they've got nobody. They know that they can't follow Bush, but they don't have anyone else. Gingrich is still praying he can pull them back behind him, but isn't in any sort of position to see that happen. Besides, he really wasn't so great at the strategizing thing either. He was decent at tactics, but didn't have any reasonable goal in mind once his tactics won the day.
And the biggest problem is that, at the end of the day, they don't have many ideas and the few they have are incredibly unpopular. So they can do all the strategizing and maneuvering they want, but the best they can do is obstruct Democrats. Because if they actually achieve a policy goal, they'll be hated by everyone and be further behind than when they started. And so the few people who can lead them don't want to do so, and most of them have no clue where to start.
And unless they finally decide to give up on their rigid conservativism, it's going to remain that way into the future. They can obstruct Democrats, but they'll never be able to get ahead.