Within just a few hours Tuesday night, Democrats went from overconfidence to overreaction.
The overconfidence wasnâ€™t justified. Nor is the overreaction.
Nationally â€“ and in North Carolina â€“ Democrats awoke on Election Day with visions dancing in their heads of massive early vote, mountains of mail-in ballots and sweeping landslides.
James Carville, Democratsâ€™ favorite talking serpent-head, promised theyâ€™d be cracking the champagne by 10 pm.
The champagne stayed on ice.
It didnâ€™t take long to realize there wasnâ€™t going to be a big blue breakthrough in the South, though Georgia remained too close to call Wednesday.
Democrats in Florida, Texas and â€“ yes â€“ North Carolina who begged Joe Bidenâ€™s campaign to go there more should be glad the Biden brain trust shunned those sideshows and stayed focused on the real game: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.
By the wee hours Wednesday morning, Democrats went into full finger-pointing, breast-beating mode as Trump swept the South and Republicans won big in North Carolina: President, U.S. Senate, legislature, Council of State and judicial races. They sounded ready to jump out the window.
North Carolina remains an evenly and deeply divided state. Biden did about two points better here than Hillary Clinton did. Governor Roy Cooper won comfortably. Attorney General Josh Stein has a narrow lead. Deborah Ross, Kathy Manning, Elaine Marshall and Beth Wood won.
Clearly, North Carolina Democrats had been overconfident. They were saying in the final weeks that Biden might carry the state, Cal Cunningham would win and Democrats could gain seats in the legislature.
They need to reexamine the polls and data they relied on. And they need to change something theyâ€™re doing. But, as one young Democrat said, â€œThat something could be any one of four dozen things.â€
As an example, he added, â€œI think in NC specifically, we are communicating to an electorate that doesnâ€™t quite exist yet â€“ the demographic blue wave that’s hitting our cities, but is probably still a decade or so away from fundamentally reshaping our politics â€“ at the expense of rural and urban-adjacent counties, where we have effectively zero support anymore.â€
An experienced Democrat added that the party needs â€œsome serious and honest soul-searching to learn from what went wrong and what that means about how to move forward.â€
That beats leaping off the ledge.