This month, the limits of that strategy became clear. In more than a dozen House districts in which moderate Republicans had long succeeded, voters apparently decided they were no longer willing to empower the hard-right of the GOP by electing moderates who would contribute to a Republican majority.
I spoke the day after the election with Martha Rainville, an outstanding moderate Republican candidate for Vermont's sole House seat, who lost her race (even while Vermont was reelecting its Republican governor). She has already gotten e-mails from people telling her they would have loved to have voted for her, and will in the future, but just wouldn't pull a Republican lever for Congress this year.
Nationwide, all Democratic candidates for the House and Senate received more than six million more votes than Republicans did. That is twice the number of votes by which President Bush beat John Kerry in 2004.
Nearly two years ago, in my book It's My Party Too, I warned that the "danger Republicans face today is that the party will move so far to the right that it ends up alienating centrist voters and marginalizing itself."
Critics at the time dismissed my argument. Here's how one put it: "If the GOP was in such dire need of a political makeover, there would be a clamor from Republicans to find a winning formula. There isn't - they've already got one." The results of Nov. 7 suggest otherwise.
I believe, however, that within the results of this year's electoral defeats are the seeds of future Republican victories, but only if those seeds are planted in the center of the political landscape.
President Bush has to lead the Republican Party back toward its traditional, philosophical roots of respect for and belief in the individual, fiscal responsibility, pragmatic and realistic foreign policy, and real environmental stewardship.
The Republican minorities in both houses of Congress must also resist the temptation to play the role of obstructionists. Indeed, I suspect they will find areas where they can build strong bipartisan coalitions in favor of sensible action in such areas as immigration and stem-cell research, if they are willing to move back to the center, where the best policy-making often gets done.
As governor of Texas, George W. Bush showed that he could work with Democrats. By 1998, when he was up for reelection, his success in working across party lines had become the hallmark of his first term. As Governing magazine, published by Congressional Quarterly, said that year: "All governors have to compromise to get things done. But few of them look as good doing it as George W. Bush." Now is the time for the president to show he can be the "uniter" he promised six years ago.
The lesson the Republicans should take away from the midterm elections is that, over the long term, elections in the United States are won by building majorities that reach toward the center. That's not just the best way to win elections, but it's also the best way to govern.
For the sake of my party and the future of our country, the president must begin to reach out to the center of the Republican Party and the Democratic majority in Congress. If he does, the next two years could very well be the most productive of his presidency.
Christine Todd Whitman is the former New Jersey governor, who heads the It's My Party Too Political Action Committee (www.mypartytoo.com)
Contact Christine Todd Whitman at email@example.com.