"Sometimes we have to go off into the wilderness and regroup," Ingraham told listeners.
Campaigning for a McCain rival would seem an obvious tactic, but radio show calls and blog posts were largely quiet on that point. McCain has amassed nearly 60% of the delegates needed for the nomination, and even his harshest critics said it was tough to imagine that any other candidate could prevail.
There were no cries, either, to promote a third-party candidate. Last summer, several conservatives -- including Dobson -- floated that idea, but it's now widely seen as hopeless.
"There's a feeling of exhaustion," said Jed Babbin, editor of the conservative journal Human Events. But he said he was confident spirits would revive with time. "We're not going to sit down and be quiet," he said. "That's not our nature."
Babbin said he intended to launch a campaign of letter writing and speaking out at public forums to pressure McCain to pick a running mate acceptable to the most conservative wing of the party. Other bloggers intend to ask McCain to name his potential Cabinet -- and stock it with political heavyweights from the right.
Some would like McCain to offer the vice presidency to Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and a former Southern Baptist preacher who is still campaigning for the nomination after winning five states Tuesday.
Babbin, though, said Huckabee wasn't conservative enough because he approved a tax increase in Arkansas and he talked often about the need to fight global warming.
"If [McCain] chooses a real, no-kidding, gut-level conservative to be vice president -- and frankly, I'm not sure who that would be -- he'd bring a lot of his harshest critics around," Babbin said.
Then, abruptly, his upbeat tone faded. "It's not quite hopeless," he said, "but . . ."
Correll reported from Colorado Springs, Simon from Denver. Times staff writer Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this report.