WASHINGTON — With a brutal finality, the extent of the Republicans’ collapse in the House came into focus last week as more races slipped away from them and their losses neared 40 seats.
Yet nearly a month after the election, there has been little self-examination among Republicans about why a midterm that had seemed at least competitive became a rout.
President Trump has brushed aside questions about the loss of the chamber entirely, ridiculing losing incumbents by name, while continuing to demand Congress fund a border wall despite his party losing many of their most diverse districts. Unlike their Democratic counterparts, Republicans swiftly elevated their existing slate of leaders with little debate, signaling a continuation of their existing political strategy.
And neither Speaker Paul D. Ryan nor Representative Kevin McCarthy, the incoming minority leader, have stepped forward to confront why the party’s once-loyal base of suburban supporters abandoned it — and what can be done to win them back.
The quandary, some Republicans acknowledge, is that the party’s leaders are constrained from fully grappling with the damage Mr. Trump inflicted with those voters, because he remains popular with the party’s core supporters and with the conservatives who will dominate the caucus even more in the next Congress.
But now a cadre of G.O.P. lawmakers are speaking out and urging party officials to come to terms with why their 23-seat majority unraveled so spectacularly and Democrats gained the most seats they had since 1974.
“There has been close to no introspection in the G.O.P. conference and really no coming to grips with the shifting demographics that get to why we lost those seats,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, an upstate New York Republican who is planning to repurpose her political action committee to help Republican women win primaries in 2020. “I’m very frustrated and I know other members are frustrated.”
Ms. Stefanik said there had been “robust private conversations” but she urged Republicans to conduct a formal assessment of their midterm effort.
The G.O.P. response, or lack thereof, to the midterm backlash stands in stark contrast to the shake-ups and soul-searching that followed its loss of Congress in 2006 and consecutive presidential defeats in 2012.
House officials indicate that they will pursue an after-action report, but it is unclear how far it will go in diagnosing why they lost the popular vote by more raw votes than any time in history.
Many of the lawmakers who lost their races or did not run again say the party has a profound structural challenge that incumbents are unwilling to fully face: Mr. Trump’s deep toxicity among moderate voters, especially women.
With most of the Republicans who lost hailing from suburban seats, those who remaining represent red-hued districts where the president is still well-liked.
“Now the party is Trump,” said Representative Tom Rooney of Florida, who at 48 decided to retire, “so we follow his lead.”
Or as Representative Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, who is also retiring, put it: “It’s clear to me why we lost 40 seats; it was a referendum on the president, but that’s an extremely difficult proclamation for people to make because if they were to say that they’d get the wrath of the president.”
Beyond the eggshell-walking that Mr. Trump demands, the depth of the Republican defeat was initially obscured because of the late counting in some House races, and because the G.O.P. gained seats in the Senate while some of the Democrats’ most-heralded statewide candidates lost.
Further, the party’s hard-line stances on immigration and health care, as well as their willingness to pass a tax bill that stung high-income districts, are as much the result of attempting to assuage the far-right House Freedom Caucus as the president.
Yet there is a deep reluctance among the leaders to discuss what went wrong.
In an interview on the Saturday before the election, Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, the head of the House Republican campaign arm, predicted his party would keep the majority. But, citing a handful of suburban incumbents, Mr. Stivers allowed that “if we wake up on Wednesday and all those have broken the other way then it’s legitimate to say it was Trump.”
Reminded last week of those comments, the lawmaker would only say: “I’m not playing the blame game.”
He is hardly alone in averting difficult questions — or accountability.
Mr. McCarthy faced only a nominal challenge on his right flank in a leadership election that took place before the extent of the party’s defeats in California — they lost seven House seats — became clear. And Mr. Trump has ignored the House results.
The most the president has said took place the day after the election, when he used a news conference to belittle those who did not campaign with him and lost — an extraordinary tirade that few lawmakers condemned.
One who did was Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois. “That was disgusting,” he said, recalling how other presidents acknowledged defeat after their party lost the House. “I think back to Obama and Bush, both admitting it when they lost, accepting that with some grace.”
There has not been, Mr. Kinzinger said, “any party lookback or leadership lookback and it does worry some of us.”
What alarms Republicans even more is that the possibility that disgust with Mr. Trump will be uncurable in 2020, when he will likely be on the ballot, no matter the party’s agenda.
“It was a personality vote on the president, not an issue vote, and that doesn’t change,” Representative Kevin Yoder of Kansas said of the affluent voters in his Kansas City-area district who voted him out.
This sort of cold-eyed assessment has Republicans already expressing concern that more of their colleagues may retire rather than run again in 2020 — and that recruiting top-flight candidates could prove even more challenging going into the next campaign.
Mr. Kinzinger, who is only 40, is one of the Republicans mentioned by colleagues as a potential retiree. (He said, “I fully intend to run again,” but conceded he takes little pleasure in being asked to account for “every tweet, every comment” Mr. Trump makes.)
The concomitant challenge to preventing retirements is convincing those lawmakers who lost to run for their old seats.
Asked why his prospects would be any better in 2020 if his suburban Des Moines voters are again voting on Mr. Trump’s divisive persona, Representative David Young of Iowa, who narrowly lost in part because of what he called “the Trump effect,” was blunt
“That’s why you see a lot of people, myself included — who are asked: ‘Are you going to do it again?’ — saying: ‘I’m just going to wait and watch,’” Mr. Young said.
The midterm thrashing has emboldened some Republican lawmakers to speak out about the party’s need to be more reflective of the country, especially now that there are just 13 House Republican women.
Ms. Stefanik spoke up at a private caucus meeting, as first reported by The Washington Post, but she conceded she was not sure how much good it did.
“I just hope it didn’t fall on deaf ears,” said the 34-year-old lawmaker. “My concern is it did for some.”
Other House Republican women are equally frank.
“If we don’t learn some lessons from this election we will not be a majority party,” said Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri, who represents suburban St. Louis, calling for a caucus that “looks more like America.”
But several internal moves since the election have left some of the Republican women concerned their leaders still do not fully grasp the importance of promoting diversity.
Mr. McCarthy passed over Ms. Wagner to install a male successor to Mr. Stivers at the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to multiple Republicans briefed on the decision; after dutifully serving on the less-than-desired House ethics panel, Representative Susan Brooks of Indiana lost her very-much-desired post on the steering committee, which controls committee assignments, to a male colleague.
Representative Kay Granger, a long-serving lawmaker from Texas, was nearly denied the ranking member slot on the House Appropriations Committee for a more junior male colleague, winning the post by a single vote on the third ballot, according to two lawmakers familiar with the private vote count.
Asked about the campaign committee post, Ms. Wagner would only say she is turning her attention to fashioning a suburban agenda for the party and “is not going to wait around” for leadership to do the same.
Ms. Brooks acknowledged being “disappointed” about losing her position on the coveted steering committee, but said her larger frustration was that more Republican women did not win this year. She said she would use her PAC, as she has in previous elections, to work on behalf of female candidates.
But the longest-serving Republican woman in the House, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who is retiring, was more skeptical about the party.
An outspoken critic of Mr. Trump who has represented Miami since 1989, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen noted that previous party autopsies, like the one after their 2012 presidential loss urging more outreach to women and minorities, only “lasted a New York minute.”
Turning to walk into the House chamber to cast one of her final votes this week, she noted that many of her remaining colleagues hail from overwhelmingly conservative districts.
“Where they stand is how they see the world,” Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said. “And the world is not their congressional district. But that’s who’s left. So they’re all dug in. I don’t expect many changes.”