DSCC chair Patty Murray: GOP gaffes didn't decide the outcome in Senate

The chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Wednesday credited hard work and strong recruitment efforts — not Republican blunders — for her party's bigger-than-expected gains in the Senate. 

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“We always said we were going to put ourselves in a position to seize on Republican missteps, and we did, but offensive comments from Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did not decide this election,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Murray was referring to the Republican contenders in Missouri and Indiana — Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock — whose campaigns were undermined by their own controversial statements on rape and abortion.

The Democrats successfully defended every single one of their Senate incumbents, and in fact picked up two seats this cycle, a task that six months earlier looked highly unlikely.

Though Murray touted her committee’s work in boosting vulnerable incumbents and seeking out strong challengers, much of their success was also due simply to unfavorable conditions for the GOP in various states. In the case of Indiana and Missouri, the controversies that engulfed Akin and Mourdock played a major role in losses incurred by GOP competitors who began their campaigns in strong positions to win.

But Murray said Democratic recruitment efforts and the party's emphasis on endorsing and supporting candidates as early as the primary elections were the primary keys to the election. She also credited a strategy to contribute much of the DSCC's resources to the candidates themselves, who she said are “better equipped to make an argument to voters” than the committee.

She also noted that in Ohio, North Dakota and Montana, Democratic candidates outperformed President Obama — winning in the latter two states — where Obama was defeated.

One seat where Democrats hoped to mount a strong challenge never materialized, however — in Nevada, where Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) remained dogged by an ethics investigation and was unable to defeat Republican Sen. Dean Heller.

Murray, however, dismissed the missed opportunity as simply particularly difficult because Berkley was the challenger.

And a question mark still hovers over Maine’s Senate seat, where independent Angus King was elected. He has not yet said who he will caucus with, though Democrats have long believed he’ll back the party. Murray said she had not yet spoken with him, but “I hope to talk to him in the future."

She added: “I have tremendous confidence about what I do know about Angus King in Maine."

Congress remains divided, however, with Republicans still holding control over the House and Democrats still lacking the super majority they would need to override a filibuster, which is used with increasing frequency by both parties in the upper chamber to block legislation.

Next on the congressional agenda is a series of expiring tax cuts and looming budget cuts, as well as the expectation that the nation will hit the debt ceiling early next year.

Those negotiations will take center stage in the coming months, but Murray said any deal cut will have to include revenue-raisers, a sticking point for Republicans in previous negotiations.

“The Republicans clearly have let the Tea Party take them to the extreme. We're not going to let them take the country to the extreme. We're going to fight to ensure that the middle class is protected, and any agreements going forward include revenue,” Murray said.