Senate Republicans set out Wednesday to pin the blame for their stunning two-seat net loss in Tuesday’s elections. But instead of soul searching about why they failed again to capture the Senate majority, they tipped their hat to Democrats’ ability to outflank them.
Flawed GOP nominees in the eminently winnable races in Indiana and Missouri were the easiest scapegoats, but a whole crop of solid, mainstream recruits fell in swing states and other friendly Republican territory.
Though Republicans pointed to political headwinds for their losses in some initially promising races and bad luck in other areas, they said the results were mainly due to better execution by the Democrats.
“There’s definitely some frustration about Indiana and Missouri,” Republican pollster Dan Judy said. “I think there’s going to be a temptation on the part of some folks — and a concerted effort by Democrats — to say, ‘Well, the GOP just nominated a bunch of tea party crazies again, which is why they got wiped out.’ But I don’t think the map bears that out.”
After the last two Senate races were called midday Wednesday, Republicans ended the cycle with a net loss of two seats — a nearly inconceivable notion just a year ago, when Congressional observers gave the GOP good odds to win the majority. It turned into as bad a night as possible for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
As the 2012 cycle progressed,races that once appeared ripe for the picking fell off the table for Republicans, one by one, ultimately leaving Democrats with an expanded majority of 55 seats. Republicans entered the cycle needing to net four seats to flip the chamber. They were aided by the makeup of the cycle, as the party was defending just 10 out of the 33 seats up this year.
But distasteful comments about rape by Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) essentially handed two victories to the Democrats in contests they were otherwise likely to lose, in states where Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney cruised to victory. Republicans picked up just one Democratic-held seat and lost three of their own and not a single Democratic incumbent was defeated.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, led by Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) and Executive Director Guy Cecil, recruited strong candidates who ran near flawless campaigns and were successful in states few thought possible earlier in the cycle.
“The reason we were competing in North Dakota and Arizona is because of the candidates,” Democratic pollster Jef Pollock said. “Kudos to the DSCC, to Sen. Murray, to Guy Cecil, to the folks at the DSCC, for putting major league candidates in place that made many of these races competitive.”