National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru has a long piece on the magazine’s website dissecting the reason’s for the Republican Party’s loss last week. It’s long, but quite insightful and picks apart of some of the lazier thinking that has accompanied other such pieces:
Romney was not a drag on the Republican party. The Republican party was a drag on him. Aaron Blake pointed out in the Washington Post that Romney ran ahead of most of the Republican Senate candidates: He did better than Connie Mack in Florida, George Allen in Virginia, Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, Denny Rehberg in Montana, Jeff Flake in Arizona, Pete Hoekstra in Michigan, Deb Fischer in Nebraska, Rick Berg in North Dakota, Josh Mandel in Ohio, and of course Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. In some cases Romney did a lot better. (He also did slightly better than Ted Cruz in Texas, a race Blake for some reason ignored.)
None of those candidates were as rich as Romney, and almost all of them had more consistently conservative records than he did. It didn’t help them win more votes. The only Republican Senate candidates who ran significantly ahead of Romney were people running well to his left in blue states, and they lost too.
Akin and Mourdock have received a lot of attention because they fit into the story of the Senate elections of 2010. Most observers believe that Republican-primary voters threw away three Senate seats that year by choosing unelectable extremists over candidates who could have won. This year, Akin and Mourdock each made comments about abortion and rape that doomed them. If not for these five mistakes in candidate selection, Republicans would have 50 seats. So goes the story.
It’s an accurate one as far as it goes. But it is not the story of the 2012 Senate races. Berg, Allen, Thompson, and Rehberg all lost, but they were not unelectable extremists: All of them had won statewide races before. We could try to explain these defeats in terms of each candidate’s particular weaknesses. Blake, the Post reporter, hints at such an explanation: “It’s pretty clear that lackluster candidates cost Republicans multiple Senate seats on Election Day.” No. That’s the 2010 story. The 2012 Senate races were more like the ones in 2006 and 2008: wipeouts for Republicans of every description — veterans and newcomers, conservative purists and relative moderates alike.
All these candidates lost not because of the idiosyncrasies of this or that candidate or the flaws of this or that faction of the Republican party. They lost not because of the particular vices of the Tea Party, or of social conservatives, or of the party establishment. The most logical explanation for the pattern is that something common to all Republicans brought them down, and the simplest explanation is that their party is weak — and has been for a long time. Consider the evidence: Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Since the Senate reached its current size, Democrats have had more than 55 seats 13 times; Republicans, never.
Read the whole thing here.