Republicans are sounding a lot more pessimistic about retaking the Senate after the stumbles of Akin and Mourdock.
"There have been some unforced errors, like a golf game," said GOP strategist John Feehery. "You're shooting right around par and all of a sudden you have a couple of triple bogies and you're not doing so well and you're out of the tournament."
What's different for Republicans this year is that it's not a tea party wave that's propelling their flawed nominees. Akin won the nomination in Missouri with critical support from evangelical Christians and anti-abortion activists after the other two candidates — who each had some tea party support — spent most of their effort beating up each other.
McCaskill, in fact, helped him along the way. Akin was the opponent she wanted, so she ran ads during the GOP primary criticizing him as being "too conservative" — and mentioning his support from prominent Republicans like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Mourdock enjoyed tea party support, but political analysts say his 20-point win in the Indiana Republican primary was fueled more by a perception that Lugar had lost touch with the state.
To be fair, GOP party leaders in Washington sometimes find themselves in a no-win situation. Attempts to clear the field for establishment candidates can ruffle feathers among local activists. And sometimes the judgment of the voters is better than that of Washington insiders. In Florida, for example, Marco Rubio two years ago quashed the establishment-blessed candidacy of former Gov. Charlie Crist — who's now endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election.
And despite their stumbles, Republicans have still have a strong field of candidates capable of taking Senate seats away from Democrats in Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, Virginia, Connecticut and Ohio.