There is a lot of hand-wringing and soul searching going on within the Republican Party in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election.

That is inevitable and appropriate given the result in the presidential election. But the GOP doesn’t need to commence polls or focus groups to figure out what went wrong.

Some things are obvious.

The GOP needs to rethink its strategy for attracting minorities and women voters. It needs to find a more upbeat, positive message and it needs to move more to the center on social issues.

It needs to lose its rigid, fundamentalist edge and be more practical and pragmatic on a score of issues.

But it doesn’t need to overhaul its core principles which the majority of Americans still find favor with. Make no mistake about it, the GOP can adapt and change to stay relevant to a changing electorate without abandoning its core principles.

But it begins and ends with better candidates.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the U.S. Senate race in Missouri.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill was vulnerable. She had campaigned hard for President Obama in 2008 in a state that was tilting more and more Republican. She had voted for Obamacare and the stimulus packages which were politically repugnant to many Missouri voters. This was a race that Republicans had in the bag a year ago.

Enter Todd Akin.

In short order, the ultraconservative Akin self-destructed when he said that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant because their bodies can prevent it. He was asked to withdraw from the race by a host of fellow Republicans, but he refused.

The rest is academic.

What could have been an easy GOP pickup, turned into a 15 percentage-point McCaskill blowout. McCaskill even won Franklin County which she hadn’t done in her last two races.

An exit poll conducted by the Associated Press concluded that close to six out of every 10 women who cast a ballot in the race voted for McCaskill.

In the end, Missourians refused to vote for a person they deemed too extreme and out-of-step with the mainstream — a mainstream that leans to the right.

There are lessons to be learned by the GOP in the wake of Tuesday’s election. The party has some work to do. But it doesn’t need a complete transformation to be successful in the future as some are suggesting.

But it does need better candidates.

McCaskill, like President Obama, was beatable. That’s the lesson the GOP needs to remember.