The GOP’s Biggest Losers

Not every Republican could be a winner. Here are some of the GOP’s rising stars who flamed out.

GOP candidate Marilinda Garcia.
GOP House candidate Marilinda Garcia in Ridge, New Hampshire, on Aug. 19, 2014.

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Tuesday night was almost supernaturally good for Republicans. In the coming days, there will be no dearth of stories about unlikely comebacks, survivor incumbents, and rising stars. But not everyone can be a winner. Even as large expanses of America went “red” Tuesday night, there were a share of Republican flameouts—rising GOP stars who lost while the rest of the party was popping Champagne. Given that Republicans pulled off decisive wins in so many races that were supposed to turn out badly for them, the losses of a few overhyped GOP nominees look particularly embarrassing.

Oregon Senate nominee Monica Wehby takes the cake here. In April, she released a moving ad that drew universal plaudits; National Review dubbed it “the best GOP political ad ever.” And for a moment, it was all eyes on Oregon. Democrats downplayed Republicans’ excitement, and they were actually right to do so. Incumbent Democrat Sen. Jeff Merkley won by more than 16 points.

In New Hampshire, state Rep. Marilinda Garcia drew nonstop national hype. She got prominent billing at CPAC this year, and a host of 2016 contenders lined up to campaign alongside her, including Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. The National Republican Congressional Committee also energetically touted her to national media. But now, with nearly all of the vote in, it looks like Democratic incumbent Ann Kuster will beat her by double digits. Yipes.

Fellow Granite Stater Scott Brown needs no introduction. Just one thing: National Republicans spent the final months of this election cycle trumpeting their potentially amazing pickup opportunity in New Hampshire while largely ignoring any possibility that nominee Ed Gillespie might pull off a win against Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner. Beating Warner would have been a monster win for Republicans; the GOP has struggled in statewide Virginia contests, and the state voted for Obama twice, so knocking him off would have put some of those “Blue Virginia” rumors to bed. That makes this one of the most painful losses for Republicans this cycle.

Mia Love gets an honorable mention here. The former mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, won her House race Tuesday night, but it was surprisingly close (decided by about 4,000 votes), and it gave Republicans heartburn toward the end of an evening that was otherwise largely unmarred. Love will be the first black female Republican in Congress and has always had outsized support from the national party, including a prominent role at the Republican National Convention in 2012. But it really should never have been this close; Mitt Romney won her district in 2012 by 16 points.

Republicans have plenty to trill about for the coming weeks, but they still could stand to benefit from thinking about the ones that got away.