Republicans outright swept the midterm election Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning -- even more so than anyone had anticipated. Come January, Republicans will maintain their majority in the House and take control of the Senate, with at least 52 seats, pending uncalled results in Alaska and a December runoff in Louisiana.
The Washington Post’s Phil Rucker and Robert Costa conducted interviews with candidates, operatives, strategists, party leaders and White House advisers ahead of Election Day to crack just what it took for the GOP to get to this point. These are the five best moments from their report.
David Perdue gives the U.S. Chamber of Commerce the middle finger.
Republican businessman David Perdue did not feel like pandering to the most powerful business group in the country. When Perdue was invited to an endorsement meeting by the Chamber in late 2013, he arrived 35 minutes late, insulted the group -- “I don’t give a damn about the U.S. Chamber” -- and demanded an answer within minutes of his arrival. He left only seven minutes after the meeting began, knocking over a glass of water on his way out. He must have felt a bit of remorse following the incident, because he called the Chamber to request a second go at the endorsement meeting. The Chamber refused, choosing to endorse Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) in the Senate race instead.
The Chamber went on to attack Perdue in his primary bid with a last-minute ad painting the candidate as “losing and desperate,” accusing him of “crying like a little baby.”
In the long run, Perdue was right. He fended off his primary challenger, and easily defeated Democrat Michelle Nunn in the general election, without help from the Chamber.
Pat Roberts and Mitch McConnell duke it out.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R) felt pretty secure about his re-election bid. So secure, in fact, that he’d only raised $62,000 in August. He has no home address in Kansas -- his voting address is at the home of a couple of donors -- and insisted to then-campaign manager Leroy Towns that it would not be an issue.
In early September, Democratic candidate Chad Taylor withdrew from the race, a move his party encouraged in the hopes of clearing the way for Independent candidate Greg Orman to defeat the incumbent. Enter McConnell.
The Senate majority leader confronted Roberts about his lackluster campaign, leading to an argument, in which Roberts hurled a bunch of expletives at McConnell. The next day, Roberts fired his 70-year-old campaign manager.
“It hurt,” Towns told the Post.
Roberts defeated Orman by more than 10 points in the general election.
Harry Reid’s chief of staff unleashes on the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (R-Nev.) chief of staff, David Krone, went on record with The Washington Post to bash the White House, hitting the administration for the unfortunate position in which it put vulnerable Democrats.
“The president’s approval rating is barely 40 percent,” Krone told the Post ahead of the election. “What else more is there to say? … He wasn’t going to play well in North Carolina or Iowa or New Hampshire. I’m sorry. It doesn’t mean that the message was bad, but sometimes the messenger isn’t good.”
Not that the president disagreed -- Obama said on the morning of Election Day that the group of states Democrats were defending was “probably the worst group of states for Democrats since Eisenhower.”
Krones said a March Oval Office meeting between the president and other party leaders was incredibly tense, as Democrats begged the administration to transfer millions to back the challenging Senate races.
“We were never going to get on the same page,” he told the Post. “We were beating our heads against the wall.
Republican staffers play dress-up to prepare GOP candidates for the worst.
Republican candidates arriving at Reagan National Airport were under the impression that they were being accosted by members of the media, who shot photos and shouted questions about rape and abortion.
As it turns out, the journalists were Republican staffers in disguise, tasked with warning the candidates of the shocking -- but really, totally reasonable -- questions they should prepare to face on abortion rights and sexual assault policies.
The candidates were then brought to a National Republican Senatorial Committee, where they underwent “communications boot camps and media training.” They were in the company of the “greats” when it comes to foiled Republican campaigns: Christine O’Donnell, Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin and more.
Speaking of Todd Akin…
Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) was eyeing a potential bid in New Hampshire when he laid out the stipulations that would have to be met by his party for him to formally jump into the race. One demand on the eight-point plan? Republicans couldn’t put up Akin in another state.
Brown went on to lose to incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D). Pair that with his previous loss to now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Brown becomes the first man to lose two Senate races to female candidates.