This is about the Republicans' dilemma. And they really do have a serious dilemma. For all John Biehner's bluster, he is in a very difficult spot trying to hold his caucus together, pull them back from the brink that brought on defeat.
In 2010, the Tea Party conservatives had the momentum and the election brought a lot of them into Congress. They pulled the Republican party and the Republican caucuses in House and Senate way to the far right. Moderates almost lost control of the party.
One of the results was that a lot of ultraconservatives beat more moderate candidates in the 2012 primaries; some of them were incumbents who lost their seats (Sen. Lugar for example).
But look at the results in the general election. It was one of the main factors in the Democrats gaining seats in both House and Senate -- and led to some of the surprises. The other big factor in the "surprise" margins of victory for Obama and down-ticket offices was the Dem's ground game of registering and getting more voters to the polls.
The Romney campaign's internal polling is now being analyzed, and it shows that they badly missed the demographic changes, and therefore under-represented especially Hispanics and Asians, who both went heavily for Obama.
But back to the main point of how ultraconservative nominees led to loss of seats. Jay Bookman in the AJC a few days ago wrote about this and gave three examples of states in which this happened.
Indiana: Esteemed, even by Democrats, Senator Richard Lugar lost the nomination to a more conservative opponent, who defines compromise as Democrats giving in to Republicans. Mitt Romney carried Indiana by 10 points; but the Democratic Senate candidate won by 5 points.
Missouri: Rep. Todd Akins was favored to take Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill's seat, until his infamous remark about women who get raped can't get pregnant. Romney carried Missouri by 10 points; McCaskill won by 15 points.
North Dakota: A seat left open by retiring Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, one of the more fiscally conservative Democrats. The ultraconservative GOP candidate was favored to win, and Romney won the state by 20 points. Yet a Democrat, more liberal than Conrad whom she will replace, won a narrow victory.
"In these states,and others, Republicans mde the mistake of believing that they could pursue ideological purity without risking rejection at the ballot box, and Democrats were more than happy to teach them otherwise."These are three seats the Republicans could easily have won with a more moderate candidate. There are other examples, as well, if a bit less dramatic.
So now the dilemma for GOP leaders in Congress and in the Party is how to convince the remaining Tea Party crowd that following their demands to go far right is a losing strategy and to get them on board with moving the party back to right-center.