Victories in Connecticut reduce GOP influence in New England

On election night, Connecticut voters helped Democrats make the GOP an endangered species in New England.

To try to rebuild the GOP in the Northeast, the national Republican Party put its hopes on Linda McMahon, Republican candidate for a Connecticut U.S. Senate seat, and Andrew Roraback, another Republican who ran for the 5th District congressional.

But both were defeated.

There were also other big losses in the region for the GOP — so many that there will not be a single Republican in the House of Representatives from New England in the next Congress and very few in other high political offices.

“You’ve got to wonder what is going to become of the Republican Party in New England when Andrew Roraback, one of the most moderate Republicans there are, can’t win a seat in the [conservative- leaning] 5th District,”  said Gary Rose, head of the political science department at Sacred Heart University.

Rose said part of the problem for the GOP is that New England residents are becoming more in tune with Democratic values.

For Jennifer Duffy, the Senate analyst at the Cook Political Report, the problem for New England Republicans is the march to the right by national Republicans.

“Regardless of how moderate you are, Democrats are very successful in tying (moderate Republicans) to the national party,” Duffy said.

The list of GOP casualties is long. The only two Republican House members in New Hampshire — Frank Guinta and Charles Bass — were ousted. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, endangered House Democrats beat back challenges from well-funded Republicans.  Also in Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, lost a seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

In addition, former Maine governor Angus King, an independent who is expected to caucus with Democrats, won the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.

Democrats needed a net gain of 25 new seats to take back the House of Representatives, lost to the GOP in 2010.

Because some races are still undecided, it’s unclear how large the gains will be.  But it won’t be enough for Democrats to regain the chamber lost to the party in 2010.

With 97 percent of the 435 House races called by the Associated Press, Republicans had won 234 seats and were leading in three more. Democrats were victorious in 189 contests and were leading in nine more. Control of the chamber requires 218 votes.

The election of Democrat Elizabeth Esty to the 5th District congressional seat helped her party in the search for more House seats.

Esty’s win also means Connecticut’s delegation to the U.S. House remains entirely Democratic. Rep. Chris Murphy’s win of retiring Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman’s Senate seat also means Connecticut will send two Democrats to the Senate, the other being Sen. Richard  Blumenthal.

Democrats won at two additional seats in the Senate.  That still falls short of the 60-vote majority needed to end a filibuster or other parliamentary methods used to block legislation.

But Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Wednesday she is very pleased  with the gains —  especially since Democrats were expected to lose about four seats.

“We did something nobody thought was possible and expanded our strength in the Senate,” Murray said.

She also blamed the most conservative members of the GOP for the party’s election night defeats.

“If the Republican Party wants to follow the Tea Party off a political cliff, that’s their prerogative,” she said.