NRSC keeps options open in remaining Senate primaries

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has quietly helped its preferred candidates win in a series of primaries this cycle — and it's reserving the right to step into two remaining states, Alaska and Louisiana, where fights still loom.

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The NRSC hasn't officially endorsed in either state, but Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Executive Director Rob Collins made it clear that they're keeping their options open in both states.

"I've also said early on in my tenure at NRSC that if the Democrats attempt to choose our nominees we will plot a course that Republicans are responding," Moran said at the end of a Tuesday afternoon meeting with reporters. "This isn't particularly directed at Alaska but just generally we have not sat idly as we've watched Harry Reid's efforts to choose whom the Republicans nominate."

Moran said that the party hasn't endorsed in Louisiana, a state that has an unusual all-party primary on Election Day. Collins stepped in to point out that under a set of unusual rules, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is "essentially the nominee" in the eyes Republican National Committee and NRSC despite a challenge from Tea Party candidate Rob Maness (R).

"There's a rule eleven, a letter in Louisiana, which basically says the Republican Party, state and RNC, have said that Cassidy is, I don't know what the right legal term is, but he's essentially the nominee," Collins said. "So that frees them up and through them all the party apparatus to put in money in Louisiana either against Landrieu or for Cassidy."

Collins then said that although the NRSC has yet to step in for Cassidy, they "have the ability to," suggesting they're likely to do so before Nov. 4 as they seek to defeat Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), a top target.

Moran and Collins also agreed that it would be harder to defeat Landrieu in a runoff if Democrats had already secured control of the upper chamber, though they said that scenario is unlikely.

Collins also left the door open to getting involved in Alaska ahead of its mid-August Senate primary, though he suggested it wouldn't be necessary. Former Alaska Department of Natural Resources head Dan Sullivan (R) is the front-runner against Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) and 2010 Senate nominee Joe Miller (R) in the state.

"The Dems are desperate to decide who our nominee is going to be. We haven't endorsed, we reserve the right to endorse and do whatever activity we want," he said. "The conventional wisdom is that Dan Sullivan is the stronger candidate. We're neutral in that race." 

Moran also predicted that his home state colleague, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), would win his primary next Tuesday and that he didn't think it would be one "where we will be up late into the night waiting to see the outcome."

He also said Republicans had effectively expanded the Senate playing field past the six Democratic seats that former preisdential nominee Mitt Romney won by double-digit margins in 2012. Moran argued that more than a dozen seats were in play, which "does eliminate the need" of sweeping the party's original campaign targets.