(CNN) – Widely condemned comments about rape from two Republican candidates weren't the determining factor in Democrats retaining the upper chamber of Congress, a top Senate Democrat said Wednesday.
Sen. Patty Murray, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the two seats her party picked up were instead the prize for hard work ahead of an election that once seemed an uphill climb for Democrats, who were defending 23 of the 33 seats being contested in Tuesday's vote.
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"We always said we were going to put ourselves in a position to seize upon Republican missteps and we did," Murray said on a conference call. "But offensive comments from Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did not decide this election. It was a result of hard work and critical strategic decisions over many months."
Those two Republicans received massive blowback this summer and fall for comments on rape and abortion – Akin for claiming that pregnancy was rare after "legitimate rape," and Mourdock for saying God intends for pregnancies occurring from rape.
Both Akin and Mourdock lost their bids for U.S. Senate in elections where Democrats previously appeared vulnerable.
Murray also touted a persistent spending deficit for Democrats, saying the fact her team was outspent in close races was proof the politicians running under the Democratic banner were "the best class of candidates I've ever seen."
"We proved to Karl Rove, the U.S. Chamber [of Commerce], and a bunch of right wing billionaires, they can spend all the money they want, but they can't buy themselves the U.S. Senate," Murray said on the call. "If I'm Sheldon Adelson, Charles Koch or a big oil executive, I would be picking up the phone today and asking the Chamber, asking Karl Rove 'What the heck did you do?'"
The disparity among the Democratic candidates who won – including those in the progressive wing like Massachusetts' Elizabeth Warren, and more moderate senators-to-be like Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Tim Kaine in Virginia – didn't worry Murray, who said she was "confident we'll be able to work with these people to move in the right direction."
She added she had "sympathy and understanding" for Sen. John Cornyn, her counterpart at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
"I don't see this as a John Cornyn problem, I see this as a Republican Party problem, and they'll have to figure out how to deal with that," Murray said.
On that point, she and Cornyn seem to agree. The Texas Republican released a statement Tuesday night urging some introspection for the GOP.
"It's clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party," Cornyn wrote. "While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead."