The Washington Post

The Republican Party’s candidate problem (in two charts)

Two days after a wholly disappointing election for the National Republican Senatorial Committee that saw the party not only fail to gain the majority but actually lose seats, a soul-searching of how it happened has begun.

The blame, as it often is, has been thrust on the candidates. And, at least in this case, for good reason. After all, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin essentially gave away seats with their comments on rape and pregnancy.

But the trouble for the GOP wasn't just in Indiana and Missouri.

In fact, as the chart below details, Republican Senate candidates under-performed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in most of the important races of 2012.


In five races, the GOP candidate under-performed Romney by at least nine points. This includes Reps. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) and Rick Berg (R-N.D.), who both lost in states that Romney carried by at least 13 points. (Maine is a bit of a special case, since there was a third-party candidate in the Senate race.)

Meanwhile, the only Republican Senate candidates who out-performed Romney were four people running in very Democratic states that Republicans weren't going to win anyway: Connecticut, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Hawaii. (Obama won all four states by double digits.)

Democrats did have more help from incumbency than Republicans, which makes the GOP's under-performance in states like Ohio, Florida, Montana and Michigan more understandable.

But even if you look at only the open seat contests, the GOP under-performed in most of those races -- up to and including two people who won: Rep. Jeff Flake (R) in Arizona and state Sen. Deb Fischer (R) in Nebraska.


GOP candidates in two key toss-up races -- Virginia's George Allen and Wisconsin's Tommy Thompson -- both performed roughly equally with the top of the ticket.

But especially in Thompson's case, that has to be disappointing for Republicans. After all, Thompson is a moderate former four-term governor who ran against a liberal congresswoman from Madison, Tammy Baldwin. And he still couldn't beat Romney's number.

Candidates often get too much credit when they win and too much blame when they lose. But, candidates matter. Always have, always will. And in 2012, it's pretty clear that lackluster candidates cost Republicans multiple Senate seats in Election Day.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
Republicans debated Saturday night. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Dan Balz says...
Rarely has the division between Trump and party elites been more apparent. Trump trashed one of the most revered families in Republican politics and made a bet that standing his ground is better than backing down. Drawing boos from the audience, Trump did not flinch. But whether he will be punished or rewarded by voters was the unanswerable question.
GOP candidates react to Justice Scalia's death
Quoted
I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.
Sen. Marco Rubio, attacking Sen. Ted Cruz in Saturday night's very heated GOP debate in South Carolina. Soon after, Cruz went on a tirade in Spanish.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
The State's Andy Shain says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
67% 22%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

March 6: Democratic debate

on CNN, in Flint, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.