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Old 11-13-2012, 02:57 PM
 
755 posts, read 612,174 times
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Somehow, it happened. The GOP entered 2012 with a playing field in the Senate races that looked outstanding. The question wasn't 'Will the GOP gain seats?' but 'How many seats will the GOP gain?'. But somewhere along the way, things just went awry. Let's have a look at those things.

THE REPUBLICAN SEATS
The GOP only had to defend 10 seats, against 21 seats for Democrats and 2 seats held by independents caucusing with the Democrats. Of those 10 seats, 6 were in states won by John McCain in 2008. Another state, Indiana, was won by Barack Obama in 2008 but was still a fairly red state (and, indeed, was carried by Mitt Romney this time around). Still another state was Nevada, again won by Obama in 2008 but a swing state. The defensive situation for the GOP thus looked pretty good.

MASSACHUSETTS
The was the single glaring weak spot for the GOP all along. Still, they had the incumbency in Scott Brown. What happened? Elizabeth Warren happened. Wildly popular amongst progressives, she rallied the base to contribute to support her and to get out and vote. Brown could have run a better race, but it's hard to put much blame on the GOP for not holding this seat against Warren in a bright blue state. This loss was understandable.

MAINE
This was the first sign of trouble for the GOP. Much-reviled by conservatives as a RINO, Olympia Snowe looked into the face of getting primaried into oblivion and folded her hand. Had she been able to make it to the general election, she'd have coasted to another term, and she'd be casting a vote in January for a Republican Senate Majority Leader. Maine is a blue state, and she was the best the GOP could hope for in such a state, but ultimately the Tea Party played a large role in her retirement. In stepped Angus King, and the rest is history. He will almost certainly caucus with the Democrats (he endorsed President Obama, after all) and the Democrats picked up a seat without having to expend any effort at all.

INDIANA
Similar to Snowe, Indiana's Richard Lugar was oft-maligned as a RINO. Never mind the fact that he voted with Republicans the vast majority of the time, he wasn't Tea Party-enough for the Club For Growth. So they spent a lot of money to primary him, and to serve up Richard Mourdock instead. They they spent a lot more money trying to make Mourdock palatable to the electorate. Unfortunately for Republicans, Mourdock was unable to resist opining that women should really look at the bright side of rape. And the rest is history. This wasn't just an unforced error, this was an error that the GOP put considerable efforts into making.

NEVADA
Nice hold here for the GOP. Shelly Berkley was the one major Democratic prospects that just didn't pan out this time, in a state that President Obama carried by over 6 points.

ARIZONA
Democrats had high hopes of capturing this open seat, and put up Richard Carmona, United States Surgeon General in the George W. Bush Administration. Though he closed to within low single digits in mid-October, an ill-advised derogatory comment about one of the Presidential debate moderators stalled his momentum, and Republican Congressman Flake pulled away to a 5-point victory.

MISSISSIPPI, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, UTAH, WYOMING
The remaining GOP seats were never in doubt.

THE DEMOCRATIC SEATS
While the GOP only had 3 retiring incumbents, the Democrats had 7. And open seats are much easier to flip than seats held by an incumbent running for another term. In addition, they had several incumbents who looked very beatable, a couple having ridden the 2006 Democratic wave to election in red states. But in the end, the Democrats managed to return all but one of these seats to their caucus.

NEBRASKA
This was always a virtual GOP lock. Ben Nelson, not much loved (to put it mildly) by progressives, was retiring. Having almost no bench in Nebraska, the best candidate the party could find to try and hold the seat was Bob Kerrey, a former Senator who had lived in New York for the past decade (ie, a complete retread). A couple of polls showed a Kerrey surge in October, but it wasn't to be, and Republican State Senator Deb Fischer won an easy 16-point victory. It would be the only GOP pickup of the cycle.

MISSOURI
Claire McCaskill began 2012 as the most endangered Democratic Senator. But when her opponent, Republican Congressman Todd Akin, displayed notable ignorance about human reproduction in an attempt to demonstrate that rape wasn't really as big a problem as some make it out to be, the race was all but over. She won re-election by a 15-point margin.

WISCONSIN
How could the GOP lose? Their nominee was four-time Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, less conservative than most Republicans, running against a very liberal Congresswoman. Lose they did, as Thompson proved to be one of those candidates who looks great on paper but then runs a poor campaign.

NORTH DAKOTA
The Republicans got the candidate they wanted in at-large Congressman Rick Berg. But in small states, retail politics can trump everything, and former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp won the seat. Not really an error for the GOP here; they just got beat.

MONTANA
As with next-door in North Dakota, the Montana GOP got the candidate it wanted in the local at-large Congressman. Democrat Jon Tester won a narrow race against a scandal-plagued incumbent during the 2006 Democratic wave, and seemed poised to be swept out of office with that receding wave. But in another small state, the politician who is better at retail politics won. As with North Dakota, the GOP did nothing wrong here. They just lost.

VIRGINIA
Having been defeated in 2006 by Democrat Jim Webb, Republican George Allen returned to try and win back the seat the retiring Webb was vacating. This seat was high on the list of GOP targets, but Allen could never close the deal and lost to former Democratic Governor and DNC chairman Tim Kaine.

FLORIDA, HAWAI'I, MICHIGAN, NEW MEXICO, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA, WEST VIRGINIA
All 7 of these states featured races the GOP thought were winnable. In Hawai'i and New Mexico the Republicans got their A-list candidates. In Ohio, they thought they could knock off incumbent Sherrod Brown, a Senator far more liberal than his state. But the GOP never got any traction in any of these states, and the Democrats held them all without much trouble.

CALIFORNIA, DELAWARE, MARYLAND, MINNESOTA, NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, RHODE ISLAND, WASHINGTON
None of these Democratic seats were ever considered competitive, and the GOP did nothing to change that.

CONNECTICUT, VERMONT
These two seats are held by independents caucusing with the Democrats. Bernie Sanders in Vermont was never in any danger of defeat. But in Connecticut, the GOP hoped to replace the outgoing Joe Lieberman. Instead of nominating popular (and moderate) former Congressman Chris Shays, they once again nominated professional wrestling magnate Linda McMahon. For the second election in a row she threw $50 million of her personal fortune at a Connecticut Senate seat, and lost.

PROGRESSIVE CANDIDATES
Not only did the Democrats gain two seats, they generally upgraded the seats they held. In Connecticut, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, the winning Democrat is considerably to the left of the outgoing Democrat (or, in the case of Connecticut, independent). More modest ideological upgrades were made in North Dakota and Virginia.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE FOR THE GOP
As a result of botching this Senate cycle, things look fantastic for the GOP in 2018, when the Democratic caucus will have to defend an imposing 25 seats, to a mere 8 for the GOP. And all but one of those 8 GOP seats will be in states won by Romney (Nevada is the sole exception).
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Old 11-13-2012, 03:03 PM
 
Location: Norman, OK
3,479 posts, read 6,180,652 times
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No way was Hawaii winnable for the GOP - not during an Presidential election year. Ditto with New Mexico and Connecticut. In West Virginia, you think the GOP had a shot against a very popular and very conservative Democratic Joe Manchin? No way.

The blown races were in Indiana and Missouri - hands down. Virginia also could have been won but Allen has too much baggage. In Wisconsin, I think that Thompson also succumbed to the presidential election year troubles. Were it 2010 or 2014, he probably would have won.
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Old 11-13-2012, 03:09 PM
 
Location: NC
10,005 posts, read 8,719,959 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mictlantecuhtli View Post
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE FOR THE GOP
As a result of botching this Senate cycle, things look fantastic for the GOP in 2018, when the Democratic caucus will have to defend an imposing 25 seats, to a mere 8 for the GOP. And all but one of those 8 GOP seats will be in states won by Romney (Nevada is the sole exception).
Meh 2016 happens first and with 24 Republicans, many in blue states, on the defensive in a presidential year where they may or may not have sorted out the problems that lead to the implosion they suffered this year...It might be a GOP blood bath.
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Old 11-13-2012, 03:11 PM
 
Location: NC
10,005 posts, read 8,719,959 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wxjay View Post
No way was Hawaii winnable for the GOP - not during an Presidential election year. Ditto with New Mexico and Connecticut. In West Virginia, you think the GOP had a shot against a very popular and very conservative Democratic Joe Manchin? No way.

The blown races were in Indiana and Missouri - hands down. Virginia also could have been won but Allen has too much baggage. In Wisconsin, I think that Thompson also succumbed to the presidential election year troubles. Were it 2010 or 2014, he probably would have won.
I have to say Montana and North Dakota were pretty big blown races and in terms of the sheer amount of money they invested, Ohio was a devastating GOP loss.
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Old 11-13-2012, 03:18 PM
 
Location: Norman, OK
3,479 posts, read 6,180,652 times
Reputation: 1193
Agreed on Ohio. I am not sure on the ND and MT races simply because I did not pay much attention to them.
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Old 11-13-2012, 03:22 PM
 
Location: NC
10,005 posts, read 8,719,959 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wxjay View Post
Agreed on Ohio. I am not sure on the ND and MT races simply because I did not pay much attention to them.
In North Dakota and Montana it was a case of running an unpopular Republican against a popular/somewhat popular Democrat. I am not quite sure why the GOP did that unless they just did not have a bench which is somewhat hard to believe considering it is North Dakota and Montana.
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Old 11-13-2012, 03:40 PM
 
755 posts, read 612,174 times
Reputation: 438
Quote:
Originally Posted by wxjay View Post
No way was Hawaii winnable for the GOP - not during an Presidential election year. Ditto with New Mexico and Connecticut. In West Virginia, you think the GOP had a shot against a very popular and very conservative Democratic Joe Manchin? No way.

The blown races were in Indiana and Missouri - hands down. Virginia also could have been won but Allen has too much baggage. In Wisconsin, I think that Thompson also succumbed to the presidential election year troubles. Were it 2010 or 2014, he probably would have won.
No.

And that's why I didn't say I thought they were winnable for the GOP.

But both were on the list of targets the GOP thought it could win. In West Virginia, a lock for Republicans at the Presidential level, they didn't get a credible candidate, and folded at that point. In Hawai'i, they did in Linda Lingle, and threw over $4 million dollars at her. That doesn't happen when they don't think they could win.
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Old 11-13-2012, 04:16 PM
 
Location: Old Bellevue, WA
18,794 posts, read 13,586,491 times
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Great review, I enjoyed reading it.

I am not really unsympathetic to the idea that R's should first try to win the seat, second go for ideological purity.

OTOH consider the period from 2000-2006 when the GOP controlled everything, yet went on a spending binge (bridge to nowhere, etc). The lesson to me was that GOP control means little unless there is a reasonable degree of conservatism to go with control. Thus I have to support these primary challenges that the Club for Growth likes to push.
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