What Happened to the Tea Party (and the Blue Dogs?)
Some of the Republican Party's most controversial House members are clinging to narrow leads in races where only a few votes are left to count.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, the chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus, appeared to have held on to her seat by a narrow margin. The Associated Press said she defeated Democratic challenger Jim Graves by about 3,000 votes out of 350,000 cast at last count.
Rep. Allen West of Florida, one of the most outspoken Republicans in the House of Representatives, trailed Patrick Murphy by fewer than 3,000 votes with all precincts reporting. The race is still too close to call, according both to ABC News and the Associated Press, but barring surprises, West looks poised to lose.
The Democratic Party of Florida has already released a statement: "We congratulate Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy on defeating tea party crony Allen West," said Rod Smith, the chair of the Florida Democratic Party. "Tonight, the people of this district rejected divisive, hateful rhetoric in favor a fresh-faced, bipartisan approach centered around the issues important to Florida's middle class families."
Most of the other freshmen Republicans from 2010 were able to hold on to their seats. Of 87 Republican freshmen, just nine have lost their bids for a second term at last count. There is a common perception that the freshman class was stocked with tea partyers, but just 19 of 87 GOP freshmen joined the Tea Party Caucus after the 2010 landslide. Two freshmen Democrats, Reps. Mark Critz of Pennsylvania and Kathy Hochul of western New York, also lost.
Of the 60 members of the Tea Party Caucus, 46 have already clinched victory. Four others, including Bachmann and West, remain in races too close to call. Six Tea Party caucus members were defeated at the polls, plus another seven who retired, lost a primary or sought higher office. Both tea party candidates who ran for the Senate, Reps. Denny Rehberg of Montana and Todd Akin of Missouri lost, while Rep. Mike Pence won his bid for governor of Indiana.
Blue Dog Democrats also saw their numbers shrink from 24 to 15, including six members who retired, sought higher office, or were defeated in primaries earlier this year. Reps. Ben Chandler, Larry Kissell, and Leonard Boswell all lost Tuesday.
One Blue Dog, Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, fended off an intense challenge from Mia Love, a small-town mayor who was running to become the first Republican black woman elected to Congress. With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Matheson defeated Love by nearly 3,000 votes. She issued a statement offering her congratulations to Matheson early Wednesday morning.
"Congratulations to Jim on a hard fought victory," Love said. "It was a close race, but ultimately the voters of Utah have spoken."