-- For all the talk of nationalized races, this cycle proved that flawed candidates -- even in tightly contested states -- can't simply tie themselves to the top of the ticket and expect to be competitive. Reps. Shelley Berkley and Connie Mack, and former Rep. Pete Hoekstra each saw a 16-17 point dropoff from their top-ticket counterpart. Ethics-plagued Shelley Berkley lost a close race in Nevada, a state won by Obama, and Connie Mack never came close in Florida, where the presidential contest came down to the wire. In Michigan, where Romney made a late push and lost by single digits, Pete Hoekstra lost by a 20-point margin. -- After most polls showed GOP Rep. Todd Akin within single digits of Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., through the general election, McCaskill stomped Akin Tuesday night, carrying almost 55 percent of the vote. The only region Akin solidly carried was southwest Missouri, a Republican holdout that falls into his conservative, evangelical base. Going into the cycle, McCaskill was one of the weakest Democratic incumbents. But in a state that Romney won handily, Akin's self-inflicted damage allowed McCaskill to increase her percent lead from 2006, gaining large swaths of previously Republican counties with her appeal to moderate and split-ticket voters. Akin continuously tried to tie McCaskill to Obama, but a way to tell how badly Akin's comments hurt him? Akin got roughly 5 percent less of the statewide vote than Obama. -- Neutral observers and a look at Arizona voting history suggest that Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., will win his first full term in the House, though he trailed Republican Martha McSally on election night and for a few days after. Special election winners almost never struggle in generals so soon afterward, and it's a testament to the political skill and appeal of McSally -- the first female combat pilot in Air Force history -- that Barber is struggling. But it's also an indictment of the Arizona Republican Party and special election nominee Jesse Kelly, who lost to Barber by seven points in June. If the district's Republicans had showed any interest in electability instead of destructive intra-party wars in 2010 or the special election, the seat might already be in GOP hands. Now, McSally has made a very strong showing, but she may have gotten her chance just a hair too late to take advantage of it. -- With big personalities on the ballot across the country this year, New Englanders seem to have put issues over candidates, completely shutting out even moderate Republicans. They pinched their noses and looked the other way to hold on to two House seats threatened by scandal (here's looking at you David Cicilline and John Tierney). And while the possibility of electing an openly gay representative may have appealed to some Massachusetts 6th District progressives, it seems Richard Tisei's party affiliation couldn't be overcome. -- Republicans didn't win the White House and lost seats in both the House and Senate, but they have at least one major victory to point to, however small. The GOP picked up a gubernatorial seat in North Carolina on Tuesday and will install the state's first Republican governor since 1988 next year. One seat is hardly much to crow about (especially considering their missed opportunities in Washington, Montana and New Hampshire) -- but North Carolina gives the GOP control over 30 of the country's gubernatorial mansions, more than at any time since the late '90s. -- Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., lost the most closely-watched Senate battle of the year to Elizabeth Warren -- but some read into his concession speech line "defeat is only temporary." Keep an eye on Brown -- he's still young and may find an opportunity if Obama nominates Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as secretary of state, or in the 2014 open gubernatorial race. -- The next Congress may not appear much different when looking at what party is in control, but the demographics have certainly changed. The 113th Congress will tout the largest number of women ever - 20 women will be in the U.S. Senate, and at least 77 women will represent U.S. House districts. Five states elected women to the U.S. Senate for the first time. White men will be the minority among House Democrats - another first. Congress is looking more racially diverse among Democrats, too, with 43 African Americans, 27 Hispanics and 10 Asian Americans representing congressional districts. Lastly, five 2013 Democrat House members are openly gay. -- With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell up for reelection in 2014, Kentucky Democrats are already mulling over Gov. Steve Beshear and Rep. Ben Chandler, who just lost his reelection bid, as possible challengers. But this week, Rep. John Yarmuth threw another option into the ring: Actress Ashley Judd, a Kentucky native -- and Judd didn't rule out a run. She would certainly be a high-profile candidate, with statewide popularity and fundraising capabilities. But her vocal mountaintop removal opposition and support for Obama could make a run difficult.
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