Over the past several election cycles the Republican Party has been criticized for its poor choice of candidates in top-tier races. The media has used it as an opportunity to either poke fun at the GOP (Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m Not a Witch” ad, for instance) or to point to their out of touch views (Todd Akin’s abortion comments). And even members and strategists within the party have lamented the missed opportunity to capture a Senate majority over the past four years.
But this year things have changed. First, the Republican Party has recruited a historically-good class of candidates with strong backgrounds and innovative ideas, that can fundraise and connect with voters, and also avoid some of the verbal gaffes and campaign pitfalls that have plagued the party in the past. As Susan Davis writes for USA Today:
“The environment is really good right now, and the quality of candidates is superior,” said Scott Reed, a veteran GOP strategist and senior political aide at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “These are the best candidates I’ve seen in 32 years. With a good environment and good candidates, it’s a good combination. We like where we are.”
Five months out from Election Day, Republicans have largely avoided the same mistakes of the two previous election cycles in which the party nominated lackluster candidates who cost the party winnable seats in Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Missouri and Nevada.
Second, Democrats have compiled a weak field of candidates that are either hobbled by their loyalty to an unpopular president or their problematic, ineffectual campaigning.
“In an odd twist this year, it’s the Democrats who are saddled with a slew of weak, inexperienced and wandering candidates who keep putting their feet in their mouths,” writes Joseph Curl for the Washington Times.
Curl goes on to mention Alison Lundergan Grimes’ less than stellar answers to press questions. As the Daily Beast reported, “On the major issues, Grimes has either been missing or firing off press releases that require both multiple readings and multiple head scratches.” And Michelle Nunn’s accidental release of a scathing campaign plan, which says she can come across as a “lightweight,” “too liberal,” and not a “real Georgian.” And John Walsh who plagiarized significant portions of his master’s degree at the U.S. Army War College.
Curl’s story doesn’t even mention hugely flawed candidates like Bruce Braley, who insulted a popular-Iowa senator for being a farmer. Or Rick Weiland, a candidate so bad that the Democratic Party is “still actively recruiting” against. Or Kay Hagan, whose refusal to answer simple questions caused one radio host to rant that her news conference could not have been worse unless “she lit a baby bunny on fire while stomping on the American flag.”
But campaign vignettes and quotes don’t tell the whole story about just how good the environment is for Republicans and how bad it is for Democrats. For that we turn to some comparative polling. Take a look at some of these statistics courtesy of the NRSC’s Brad Dayspring:
- Mary Landrieu, Louisiana: At this point in 2008 Landrieu led her Republican opponent by 17 points. In 2014, polls already show that Landrieu trails Dr. Bill Cassidy in the majority of polling (Cassidy has been ahead in 7 or tied in 2 of ten public polls so far this year).
- Mark Begich, Alaska: Of the 18 public polls in 2008, 15 of them showed Mark Begich ahead by an average of 10 points. This year, Sullivan won the primary (despite millions of targeted attack ads by Harry Reid) and is in a statistical tie with Begich.
- Mark Udall, Colorado: In 2008, Udall led in every single public poll (27 total) by an average of 14 points. Today the race is a dead heat, despite the fact that the DSCC and Senate Majority PAC are committed to spend $13 million.
This is the year that Republicans will put it all together. The political map tilts in our favor, the national mood is working for us, President Obama’s unpopularity is weighing down his party’s candidates, and most importantly, we have a class of highly qualified candidates that can go toe-to-toe and idea-for-idea with anyone. College Republicans will be active on campuses across the nation to make sure this can’t-miss opportunity turns into Election Day results.