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The NRSC’s Big Problem

Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, issued the following statement after last night’s Senate defeats (via Politico):

We had many hard-fought races tonight and I’m proud to welcome several new Republicans to the Senate, particularly my fellow Texan Ted Cruz.   

But it’s clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party.  While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight.  Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.

Politico’s Alexander Burns adds:

The combination of Senate losses with Romney’s loss is part of what makes this election so difficult for Republicans to explain. If it had just been Romney who went down in defeat, well, that could be a problem with one candidate and one campaign. Similarly, if just one or two Republican primaries had produced weak nominees, those could have been flukes.

But we’re looking tonight at a national election in which the GOP failed to take advantage of enormous political opportunities on multiple levels, following a 2010 cycle in which Senate Republicans underperformed. Cornyn doesn’t say what exactly the work is that Republicans have to do in the “weeks and months ahead,” but much as Democrats concluded after 2004, it’s clear that something has to be done.

Something is obviously very wrong when the GOP lost ground in a year when Democrats were defending 23 seats and Republicans just 10. Cornyn and the NRSC will get the brunt of the blame, and they deserve some of it. They lost races that were close: George Allen in Virginia, Rick Berg in North Dakota, and Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

But some of the big losses were out of their control. After the blowback the NRSC received during the Tea Party wave in 2010, the committee stopped endorsing and openly funding primary candidates in open seats. That made it easier for an unfit candidate like Todd Akin to win the Republican nomination. There also wasn’t much the NRSC could have done about Richard Mourdock. While his poorly-worded comments about rape and abortion weren’t as outrageous as they were characterized in the media, they drew outsized attention because of the Akin controversy. And as for Olympia Snowe, the NRSC had no control over her retirement.

Still, there clearly needs to be a change, and Mike Allen reports on what that might look like:

Richard “Mourdock [in Indiana] and [Todd] Akin [in Missouri] join [Christine] O’Donnell, [Sharron] Angle, and [Ken] Buck as candidates that are embarrassingly not ready for the scrutiny of a Senate election. High-level operatives have already begun studying after-action reports to make a change in the business model to address this problem for next cycle.”

Most likely solution: Enlist conservative outside groups to try to steer electable candidates toward nomination.

Sort of like a shadow Republican Senatorial Committee. It would make it more difficult for an unprepared or unelectable candidate to win the nomination, without ruffling the grassroots.



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