The Republican field for Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-Va.) seat may soon get crowded, with former Senate candidate Howie Lind and Virginia Del. Bob Marshall both "seriously considering" bids.
The entrance of either or both of the two challengers could greatly complicate the aspirations of Virginia Del. Barbara Comstock (R), who is in the race and has been rapidly securing big-name endorsements. It could also hinder the GOP's chances of holding onto the slightly Republican-leaning seat.
Whitbeck said both potential candidates could be strong in the primary.
"Both of them are formidable and both will have a good base of support they can draw from. It's shaping up to be a pretty competitive race," he said.
Marshall, a staunch social conservative whose interest was first reported by Roll Call, could be a problematic nominee. His sponsorship of a controversial "personhood" bill focused on banning abortion and leading role in fighting to keep gay marriage illegal in the state could hamper him in the socially centrist district. Lind, a former lobbyist and Pentagon official who recently dropped out of Virginia's Senate race, doesn't immediately present the same concerns to establishment Republicans.
"Bob Marshall continues to win elections in Prince William County as a very conservative Republican, in a district that is probably a little less conservative than he is," Whitbeck continued. "Howie is a very well-respected party leader for a number of years and was certainly competitive in the Senate race, and will have a tremendous amount of support among the grassroots."
The Northern Virginia district leans slightly Republican — both Mitt Romney and 2013 gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R) carried it by narrow margins — but Democrats are hopeful they can compete for the seat now that the popular Wolf is retiring. National Republicans think Comstock will be tough to beat, however. She has already secured endorsements from Romney as well as conservative leaders and groups including talk show host Mark Levin, Citizens United, the American Conservative Union and Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips.
The Republican nominee will be chosen in a "firehouse primary," a district-wide one-day event where Republicans can stop by and vote for their preferred candidate.