"House Republican incumbents — and their candidates — are running as far away from the Tea Party as they can," the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declared in its memo.
The GOP performance defied early expectations that Republicans' historic 2010 gains would be followed by steep losses this November — the historical pattern after large wave elections such as the 63-seat gain for Republicans two years ago.
Experts have noted that the Republican strategy after 2010 was to use the decennial process of redistricting to fortify as many of the 87 freshmen as possible for the 2012 races. Rather than trying to seek large gains, Boehner's team worked with GOP-controlled state legislatures, which draw district maps, to shore up those freshmen in new districts.
Of the more than 80 Republican freshmen standing for reelection, more than half had been reelected by late Tuesday.
Both parties hoped to notch several historical firsts in the election. In the North Shore of Massachusetts, former state senator Richard Tisei was in a tight race against a veteran, scandal-plagued incumbent in his bid to become the first Republican to win as an openly gay candidate. With more than 50 percent of the vote counted, Rep. John Tierney, D, led Tisei by less than 4,000 votes. In Utah, Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, was in a tossup race with Rep. Jim Matheson in her effort to become the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. In Hawaii, Democrat Tulsi Gabbard was the favorite to win an open seat and become the first Hindu-American in Congress.
Gabbard's expected victory is part of the continuing diversification of House Democrats that most believe will leave their caucus of close to 200 members with a majority of women and minorities. If that occurs, it will be the first time in history that a House or Senate party caucus does not have a white male majority.