A president’s coat tails is a key indicator of party leadership and strength of message. The head of the party ticket is expected to use his position to influence downstream politics thus building the base of elected officials required to implement policy and programs and the party platform.
The Republican Party had hoped to build on its midterm wave in 2010, which secured a majority position in the house and the strength of Romney’s campaign to secure a majority in the Senate. However, it is not working out that way. A series of missteps, notably the party’s inept and insulting message regarding women’s reproductive rights, has put the hope of a filibuster proof Senate out of reach. In the key races in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Florida, and Ohio, Republicans are finding it difficult to gain the necessary traction to flip or in the case of Maine, retain the Senate seat and in most cases it can be traced to the weight of being associated with the Romney ticket.
In Maine, the Republican seat held by the retiring three term Senator Olympia Snowe looks like it will flip to independent Angus King. If King wins, he is expected to caucus with the Democratic Party. Snowe was one of the leading, if not one of the last of the moderate Republicans. She was known for reaching across the aisle in a bipartisan way in order to get things done. Losing this seat not only reduces the Republican Party’s ability to work collaboratively with the Democrats it reduces the number of Republican women in the Senate, where the Democrats have twice the amount of female Senators. King, the former two-term Governor of Maine is up 15 points in the latest Real Clear Politics poll.
Incumbent Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is leading in his race by 5 points. Brown is a staunch liberal and has been a vocal supporter of Obama. All eyes are on Ohio as it is on the critical path to winning the election for Romney. Real Clear Politics describes Ohio as “a microcosm of the country as a whole. It contains everything: a slice of Appalachia in the southeast, farmland in the northwest, decaying industrial centers and new growth cities.”
The Republican challenger Josh Mandel has something in common with Romney; they both support Richard Mourdock, the republican Indiana Senate candidate who said pregnancy via rape is ordained by God. Mandel said on the conservative Laura Ingraham Show, “[Mourdock] is a gentleman. He’s a class act. He’s a thoughtful guy.” Mandel has sought to distance himself from Romney. After the infamous tape was released that showed Romney’s disregard for 47% of the country, Mandel told the Columbus Dispatch, “I respectfully disagree with” Romney’s characterization of the 47 percent of people who don’t pay federal income taxes.” He once boasted that he could beat Brown even if Romney were to lose Ohio. It doesn’t appear to be working out that way as Romney has narrowed his gap with Obama while the gap between Mandel and Brown has grown over the past weeks.
Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent in Florida is expected to retain his senate seat against the Republican challenger, Connie Mack IV. Nelson is considered a conservative Democrat and the Republicans had high expectations of Mack who was running for the seat long held by his father, Connie Mack III from 1989 until his retirement in 2001. Nelson leads Mack by 6.7 points in the Real Clear Politics poll. Nelson has a history of beating the handpicked candidates of the Republican Party. In 2006, he defeated Bush surrogate Kathleen Harris. Harris was the Florida Secretary of State that oversaw and certified the infamous “missing chad” election of 2000 while working for Governor Jeb Bush. Mack represents the 14th Congressional District of Florida, one of the most conservative districts in Florida. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs committee, but despite his foreign policy experience, his legacy, roots, and solid conservative ideology, the Romney coat tails have done nothing to assist him in his race for his father’s seat. Mack who has been campaigning with Romney has not been able to cut into the lead held by Nelson, even while Romney has pulled into a virtual tie with Obama in Florida.
The Democrats selected Chris Murphy, the congressman from the 5th Congressional District, the most Republican area of the state to run for the open Senate seat versus Linda McMahon, the wife of World Wrestling Entertainment impresario Vince McMahon. McMahon had three advantages in this senate race 1) cash, McMahon’s campaign is largely self-funded and she has a significant advantage over Murphy. 2) Ethics, Murphy’s personal finances have come under question and the state Democrats have been embroiled in various ethical and financial scandals 3) McMahon is an outsider and the state legislature is extremely unpopular in the state. However, even with these advantages McMahon trails Murphy by 4 points in the Real Clear Politics poll. McMahon is another Republican who has sought to distance herself from Romney’s vision of America. In a statement on her website, she said, “I disagree with Governor Romney’s insinuation that 47% of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care.” In the starkest repudiation of Romney yet, McMahon began airing a campaign ad that supports a split ticket. The ad encourages Obama supporters to vote for Obama and McMahon.
In Massachusetts, Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown is behind 5 points in his race with Elizabeth Warren according to Real Clear Politics. Elizabeth Warren is the architect of the consumer protection and financial reform regulations implemented by the Obama administration. It was Warren’s policy advocacy that led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The senate race is her first attempt at elected office after being coaxed to give up her academic career by the Obama administration. Warren is also known as the source of the “you didn’t build that” meme that was echoed by Obama. A loss here would reinforce that Romney’s coat tails in his home state are extremely weak and would repudiate any notion of fealty among Massachusetts Republicans. During his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts, Romney’s coat tails became toxic and Brown has had virtually no contact and made no campaign appearances with the Republican Party head. Romney is behind 20 points in a state where he proclaims to have had marked success. Boston Magazine noted that in 2004, Romney and the Republicans fielded a slate of 131 candidates in an attempt to win the state Senate and House. Romney was looking to leverage his governorship to influence the state elections and to begin his run for the presidency. Romney attended 66 events for 42 legislative candidates. “Nearly all of his candidates went down to defeat. The Republicans actually lost three seats in the legislature, leaving them with their fewest since 1867: said Boston Magazine. Romney went on to be defeated in his run for the presidency in 2008. Romney was and remains unable to influence politics downstream and is not able to carry a party ticket. Not even in his home state.