It shouldn't have come as any sort of surprise that the Republicans would face a stunning defeat at the polls during the mid-term elections of 1974. Hot on the heels of Watergate, Nixon's resignation, Ford's asencion to the Presidency (the first time a non-elected vice-President would do so), Ford's pardon of Nixon and a general feeling that could best be described as The Great National Nervous Breakdown Of 1974 (the one that, I swear, continues to this day).
In a situation like that, it's no wonder a lot of Republicans got caught in the crossfire, even Republicans who distanced themselves from the Watergate scandal. It was voter anger, pure and simple. And it manifested itself in other ways, not the least being the win of Jerry Brown in the Governor's race in California over the Republican candidate, Houston Flournoy in a hotly contested race.
This recap, via NBC News on the day after (November 6, 1974) gives a roundup of the election and an assessment by David Brinkley:
David Brinkley: “It was said the election would be an exercise in aggressive indifference or dynamic apathy. That the turnout would be small because nobody cared. Well the turnout was not that small, and it was clear that the voters cared very much and did the only thing they could do; send a message by voting against the “ins”. Our figures show the message is one of generalized irritation and discontent with inflation and a lot more. An older lady in North Carolina said ‘if we vote Republican in November we’ll be eating rabbit by August’. Well that, and a lot of other messages have arrived yesterday. It will be instructive to see if Washington listens to them or continues as it has for a generation; listening mainly to itself.”
1978 would be a different story. And then there was 1980 to think about . . .