Senate Democrats Hope 2012 Gains Soften 2014 Blows
Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock and Christine O'Donnell still haunt Republicans.
If Republicans on Nov. 4 fail to capitalize on a golden opportunity to win a Senate majority, some of the party's poor showings in 2010 and 2012 may draw as much blame as any failure by the party to capture a majority in 27 days.
Republicans picked up six seats in 2010, though they probably should have picked up nine in that otherwise great Republican year. Democrats made a net gain of two seats in 2012, when they were defending 23 seats compared to just 10 for Republicans.
Democratic strategists are thankful for that cushion.
"The best thing that we did to hold our majority in this election cycle" was to "pick up two seats in the last election cycle," Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in the 2012 election and again in 2014, said at a political briefing last month at the National Press Club in Washington.
If Republicans fall short, "I think you look at our failures in previous elections that failed to set us up so that we could win with five seats or four seats this time instead of having to win six or seven," Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster, said last week at a National Journal political briefing.
Newhouse pointed to four states: Delaware, where O'Donnell ("I'm not a witch") defeated popular moderate Republican Representative Michael Castle in a 2010 primary; Nevada, where Angle that year was so flawed that she couldn't beat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who running with poor approval ratings in a good Republican year; Indiana, where Republican primary voters in 2012 bounced popular Senator Richard Lugar in favor of Mourdock; and Missouri, where Representative Todd Akin's reference to "legitimate rape" doomed his 2012 campaign to unseat Democrat Claire McCaskill.
Republicans "don't have some of these wild and crazy nominees," this election, Newhouse said, though they now need to make a net gain of six seats. They're strongly favored to win Democratic-held open seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, though things are getting interesting in South Dakota. Another Democratic-held open seat, in Iowa, is a tossup.
That means that Republicans, who have difficult seat defenses in Georgia, Kentucky and Kansas) will need to defeat no fewer than two Democratic incumbents. Republicans have defeated just three Democratic senators total in the past five elections — Tom Daschle in 2004 and Blanche Lincoln and Russ Feingold in 2010.
"It's not necessarily a failure of Republicans this year to win it" because beating an incumbent is "damn tough," Newhouse said.
Still, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program Oct. 5 that it would be "fair" to call the Nov. 4 vote a "bad election" for Republicans if they don't secure a Senate majority.
Or, in other words, blowing it.