Party Chairman David Parker, who held onto his post when Perdue, Dalton and others tried to force him out, said Friday the controversy didn't "change the mind of a single voter" but acknowledged there "was definitely an energy drain."
Parker said there were some positives from Election Day. Democrats retained a majority on the Council of State and were extremely well organized for the Obama campaign. Parker said his party's commitment to public education and job creation still align well with the minds of voters.
"I am genuinely optimistic about the Democratic Party because our message is so solid," he said.
Wicker and others say the message has to expand to bring back conservative Democrats and the corporate community, which largely is now siding with Republicans.
House and Senate Democratic caucuses also have to overcome the perception they are anti-business or support higher taxes.
"There is no ideological balance in those caucuses anymore," Davis said. But he added that urban population growth still brings tremendous opportunities for Democrats to rebound in the future.
Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of the liberal-leaning North Carolina Policy Watch, said elected officials in the party have failed to step up after Democratic heavyweights like Sens. Marc Basnight and Tony Rand left the political stage in the past four years.
"It's an opportunity to clear the lot and start over in terms of party infrastructure and strategy and fundraising," Fitzsimon said.
Potential Democratic standard bearers could include Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and State Treasurer Janet Cowell. It's unclear whether Attorney General Roy Cooper will take a more prominent party role or consider a gubernatorial run in 2016. Others believe Parker is still the problem and want him out. He said he hasn't decided whether he'll run for chairman again in a few months.
Republicans who served in the minority for years cautioned Democrats against being too intensely partisan, or risk failing to accomplish things for constituents.
"The member has to decide whether to be effective in the body, or do they want to be a politico," said former House Speaker Harold Brubaker, who was just one of six Republicans in the House when he arrived in the chamber in 1977.
Democrats acknowledge political victories will be rare.
"Is it going to be pleasant? No, but I've always said there's always a dignity to being in the minority party," Ross said, "so we'll go forward. We have no choice."