The prospect of an eight or nine or 10 Senate-seat pickup for the GOP has skewed the punditry. You have to keep in mind that the whole House was up for re-election, but the entire Senate wasn’t. Only 37 seats were at issue. Let’s say Ken Buck pulls through. The percentage of seats picked up by the GOP would then be 18.9 percent (seven of 37). In the context of the whole House, this would be the equivalent of an 83-seat pickup. Put differently, given the number of seats up and the fact that there were so many Blue States in play, the GOP’s haul is by any measure an extraordinary achievement. And in the Senate, if Lisa Murkowski wins and caucuses with the GOP, there won’t be single lost seat for the Republicans. In the House, there are three losses so far.
This is not to say that the GOP couldn’t have done better. Would Mike Castle and Sue Lowden have been able to take Nevada and Delaware, respectively? Almost certainly that would have been the case in Delaware, and quite possibly in Nevada. That said, the Tea Party critics should keep in mind that the Tea Partiers are also responsible for two potential GOP stars getting through the primary and winning big — Marco Rubio and Ron Johnson. They also helped fuel House, Senate, and gubernatorial wins. It would be nice for a party to pick only nominees who can win general elections, but that happens only in the imagination of eager partisans.