Hypersensitive to any sign of Republican weakness, real or exaggerated, the New York Times used front-page space Monday to push political reporter Jonathan Martin’s “House G.O.P. Brushes Off Losses, Leaving Some Members Baffled.”
The Democrats certainly had a good election in the 2018 midterms, gaining around 41 House seats (but losing two in the Senate) against a Republican president. But Republicans had an even better one in the 2010 midterms, gaining 63 House seats, and gaining six in the Senate against Democratic president Barack Obama. Between the losing Democrats in 2010 and the losing Republicans in 2018, guess which losing party the Times found to be more in mortal danger?
With a brutal finality, the extent of the Republicans’ collapse in the House came into focus last week as more races slipped away from them and their losses neared 40 seats.
Yet nearly a month after the election, there has been little self-examination among Republicans about why a midterm that had seemed at least competitive became a rout.
And neither Speaker Paul D. Ryan nor Representative Kevin McCarthy, the incoming minority leader, have stepped forward to confront why the party’s once-loyal base of suburban supporters abandoned it -- and what can be done to win them back.
The quandary, some Republicans acknowledge, is that the party’s leaders are constrained from fully grappling with the damage Mr. Trump inflicted with those voters, because he remains popular with the party’s core supporters and with the conservatives who will dominate the caucus even more in the next Congress.
But now a cadre of Republican lawmakers are speaking out and urging party officials to come to terms with why their 23-seat majority unraveled so spectacularly and Democrats gained the most seats they had since 1974.
Martin brought up a wholly irrelevant measurement (the combined popular vote for all House races) to further denigrate the Republican electoral results.
House officials indicate that they will pursue an after-action report, but it is unclear how far it will go in diagnosing why they lost the popular vote by more raw votes than any time in history.
Many of the lawmakers who lost their races or did not run again say the party has a profound structural challenge that incumbents are unwilling to fully face: Mr. Trump’s deep toxicity among moderate voters, especially women.
With most of the Republicans who lost hailing from suburban seats, those who remain represent red-hued districts where the president is still well liked.
More hostile labeling:
Further, the party’s hard-line stances on immigration and health care, as well as its willingness to pass a tax bill that stung high-income districts, are as much the result of trying to assuage the far-right House Freedom Caucus as the president.
Yet there is a deep reluctance among the leaders to discuss what went wrong.
Martin accused Rep. Steve Stivers, head of the House Republican campaign arm, of not being alone in “averting difficult questions -- or accountability.”
The midterm thrashing has emboldened some Republican lawmakers to speak out about the party’s need to be more reflective of the country, especially now that there are just 13 House Republican women.
But several internal moves since the election have left some of the Republican women concerned their leaders still do not fully grasp the importance of promoting diversity.
By contrast, in 2010 Times reporters worked hard to downgrade the smashing Republican victory, with Michael Cooper “Debunking the Myths of the Midterm.” Denying a "Return to the Republican Fold" on the part of voters, Cooper snarked: "Haberdashers who sell those ties with the little elephants on them may not want to order more just yet."
Tea Party beat-reporter Kate Zernike harped on fears of Tea Party "extremism" that supposedly blew at least two Senate seats for the Republicans, under the cold-water headline "Newcomers Ride to Power With an Unclear Mandate." No Democratic soul-searching necessary.