Two years ago, Mississippi’s Roger Wicker and Nevada’s Dean Heller fought for the sixth-highest leadership role in the Republican caucus of the U.S. Senate: Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). The NRSC is tasked at defending Republican Senate seats and flipping Democratic seats. Wicker went into the NRSC chairman campaign as a dedicated rank-and-file member who had over the past cycle assisted with more than 40 fundraisers and raised $2.2 million, at the time the seventh most in the caucus.
Wicker defeated Heller to win the challenge of what was expected by most to be a losing proposition: defending 24 Republican seats to 10 Democratic seats; with seven Republican seats in states where President Barack Obama had won, twice. Democrats needed only five seats to take the majority. Preserving the Republican majority seemed unlikely. But Wicker told Roll Call in November 2014 that he would not concede any seats and expected to hold Republican seats in swing-states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and New Hampshire. (In 2016, the GOP did win all those states except New Hampshire where the incumbent narrowly lost to the Democratic governor.) Leading the NRSC on the staff side was Ward Baker, a Tennessee native who honed his voter mobilization strategy in executing Haley Barbour’s successful 2003 statewide GOTV plan.
Republicans did hold the majority, slipping from 54 seats to what will likely be 52 seats after the Louisiana run-off this Saturday on December 10.