Sessions engineered a series of behind-the-scenes moves over the course of the cycle that paid big dividends on Tuesday, according to accounts of his actions that were kept under wraps during the campaign but shared with POLITICO afterward. He devised a blueprint to nearly wipe out the remaining Blue Dog Democrats, who for years had impeded Republican gains in the South. He persuaded wavering Republican lawmakers not to retire. And Sessions helped devise a strategy to neutralize the Medicare issue, which Democrats believed they’d use to beat the GOP back into the minorityIn 2011, a New York special election alarmed Republicans when Democrat Kathy Hochul won an upset victory, in part over Medicare. But NRCC bounced back in a Nevada special by accusing Democrats of raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare.
The 2012 election presented Sessions a far more challenging environment than in 2010, when Republicans had strong national tailwinds. One potential obstacle was Paul Ryan’s selection as vice presidential nominee, which thrust Medicare — an issue that has long haunted Republicans —front and center.
As Republicans flooded the NRCC with worried emails, Sessions responded with calm. The blueprint to follow, he told them, was a Nevada 2011 special election in which Republicans hit back by arguing that President Barack Obama’s health care bill hurt the popular program.As a previous post explained, the Republicans fought the issue to a draw.