Democrats are understandably depressed over a week out from election day. But they do have some reason to cheer. The GOP blew several winnable races and in the case of Congressmen Lee Terry (NB) and Steve Southerland (FL) lost two solidly Republican Congressional Districts. Below is a list of five winnable races the GOP blew in order from most likely to least likely to win according to political analysts and the parties. A few notable races have yet to be called including AZ-2.
CA-52: If one seat was to flip in CA the GOP felt this district based around San Diego fit the bill perfectly. Congressman Scott Peters was a freshman and the GOP recruited an openly gay and socially moderate candidate, Carl Demaio, to run. Demaio ran hard on fiscal conservatism and the polls were all over the map. Republican affiliated groups spent big to unseat Peters even as the Congressman was endorsed by the Chamber. The gamechanger came when Demaio was accused by a former staffer of sexual harrassement. DeMaio seemed to dodge the accusations but two days before the election another staffer alleged the same. DeMaio won voters who made up their minds early but he lost late deciding absentee voters and election day voters which sealed his fate.
AZ-1: Anne Kirkpatrick came to Congress in 2008, lost in 2010, and beat a weak GOP nominee for the redistricted, Republican leaning seat in 2012. She never really faced stiff competition from a weak GOP field and her general election challenger, Andy Tobin, never had enough money to threaten her. Her primary worry was that outside money would ensure her defeat and mobilize GOP turnout. Still, on paper this is a district the GOP should have won in an anti-Democratic election. Instead, the party will be targeting it for a third cycle in a row in 2016.
MN-8: This cycle is Democratic in Presidential years but is swingy in midterms. The GOP captured the seat in 2010 only to lose it in 2012. The GOP was believed to have the edge in the district due to Congressman Rick Nolan’s weak campaign and the strength of the GOP’s nominee, Stewart Mills. But the DCCC spent heavily to aid Nolan and define Mills. Mills never countered effectively and by the time election day approached he was defined as an out of touch, rich businessman. Still, Nolan only won by 2% (and under 50%).
Michigan Senate: At the start of the cycle Republicans were optimistic they could play in Michigan. After-all, despite the state’s electoral history, their nominee, Teri Lynn Land, was breaking fundraising numbers and leading in the polls. But starting early last year her campaign started to make unforced gaffes and so did she. Her fundraising started to dry up and outside groups shifted money elsewhere. Her opponent, Gary Peters, did not make such errors and notably campaigned in blue-collar, conservative Northwest Michigan for votes. While the race was always a tall order the GOP ncould have arguably made a play for the seat with the right candidate.
Oregon Senate/New Hampshire Senate: Republicans were incredibly optimistic about Oregon after pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby jumped into the race. A social moderate, her main focus was on Obamacare and tying freshman Jeff Merkley to it. Sadly, her campaign never caught fire after the primary. Accused of violating a restraining order, plagiarism and violating codes of conduct she eventually lost by over 18%. The New Hampshire Senate race was one the GOP did not see as competitive until late in the cycle. Though Brown never led in the polls he did succeed in nationalizing the race. His ultimate downfall is that he never truly succeeded in winning rural blue-collar voters and running up his margins in the GOP leaning suburbs of Southeast New Hampshire.
Other races could have made this list. The Minnesota Senate race, the Connecticut Governor’s race and a few house races were all on the GOP’s radar but they fell short in each. One particularly painful loss for the GOP was the Colorado Governorship, even as they gained control of the state senate and knocked off US Senator Mark Udall.