The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is knocking Republicans for what they're calling the party's "recruiting nightmare" for Senate races, noting in a memo obtained by The Hill that Republicans faced a number of recruiting losses this week.
Even as Democrats struggle to find their own top-notch Senate talent in key states, the DSCC memo highlights serious Republican recruiting challenges in four states: Colorado, North Carolina, Iowa and Alaska.
In Colorado, Rep. Cory GardnerCory GardnerTrump applauds congressional allies as he kicks off inaugural festivities Overnight Tech: Tech listens for clues at Sessions hearing | EU weighs expanding privacy rule | Senators blast Backpage execs Overnight Tech: Trump meets Alibaba founder | Uber to make some data public | GOP Lawmakers tapped for key tech panels MORE (R) opted against challenging Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallLive coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State The rise and possible fall of the ‘Card’ in politics Gardner's chief of staff tapped for Senate GOP campaign director MORE (D), a choice that leaves the GOP without its strongest potential candidate and without any clear contenders for the seat.
Udall has long been considered one of the safer incumbent Democratic senators, however, and Gardner looks more likely to challenge Sen. Michael BennetMichael BennetOvernight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing Mnuchin: Debt limit increase important, unclear on 'clean' hike Live coverage: Senators grill Trump's Treasury pick MORE (D) when he's up in 2016.
North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry (R) decided not to run for Sen. Kay HaganKay Hagan Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE's (D) seat in 2014, eliminating what had been the GOP's top contender against the incumbent, according to a recent poll.
The Republican Party continues to search for its candidate in Iowa, after a number of potential contenders turned down the opportunity to challenge likely Democratic nominee Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce BraleyTrump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer Criminal sentencing bill tests McConnell-Grassley relationship Trump's VP list shrinks MORE (D) for retiring Sen. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE's (D) seat.
On Wednesday, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz also announced his decision not to run, leaving a handful of relatively unknown potential and declared candidates.
And in Alaska, former Senate candidate Joe Miller reportedly filed papers to run again in 2014. Miller defeated Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiWhat we learned from Rick Perry's confirmation hearing Perry regrets saying he would abolish Energy Department Trump education pick to face Warren, Sanders MORE (R) in a 2010 primary but ultimately losing the general after she launched a successful write-in campaign.
He is seen unfavorably by 49 percent of Alaskans, according to a recent Republican poll, and some Republicans worry he could undermine their chances at a winnable seat currently held by Democratic Sen. Mark BegichMark BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide MORE.
“The NRSC and Karl Rove are failing in their promise to handpick candidates as they continue losing top recruits across the map. The past week alone is a perfect example of how the GOP’s inability to recruit electable candidates, expand the map, and avoid contentious primaries will plague their chances to take back the majority," Barasky adds.
Republican officials fired back at the Democratic claims the GOP is suffering from a chronic recruitment problem.
"99.99% of Republicans in America aren't running for Senate next year, yet each time one confirms that reality, the clapping monkeys at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee smash their cymbals," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Brook Hougesen.
"As far as Republican recruitment, in the post Citizens United world, it is far more important to do our due diligence and take the time to find right candidate than it is to rush through the process and fail as the Democrats have done."
Republicans largely agree that contentious primaries that resulted in weak candidates cost the GOP a number of winnable Senate seats last cycle, and the party pledged to make an extra effort to elect the most electable conservative candidates in 2014.
Democrats are facing a difficult 2014 map that will require them to defend more seats than Republicans — including a number in states that Mitt Romney won in 2012. But they are hoping that Republicans' early recruiting difficulties indicate the GOP is in for a replay of the 2012 cycle.
Democrats, meantime, have had recruiting difficulties of their own that could jeopardize their chances at defending seats in South Dakota and West Virginia, and of picking up a seat in Georgia.
Their top recruits passed on running in South Dakota and Georgia, and they have yet to front a candidate against Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoFive takeaways from Pruitt's EPA hearing Last Congress far from ‘do-nothing’ Senators introduce dueling miners bills MORE (R-W.Va.), considered the strongest GOP contender to run for retiring Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE's (D-W.Va.) seat.
In Kentucky, too, Democrats have yet to find a candidate to run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate confirms first nominees of Trump era The new Washington elite schmoozes over lunch Trump takes first official acts at signing ceremony MORE (R-Ky.).
According to numerous polls, McConnell is vulnerable heading into reelection. A handful of potential Democrats have turned down a run, however, and their top remaining recruit has yet to make a decision on the race, despite pressure from prominent local Democrats.
Hougesen noted the decisions of former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) in South Dakota and Rep. John BarrowJohn BarrowDem files Ethics complaint on Benghazi panel Barrow thanks staff in farewell speech The best and the worst of the midterms MORE (D) in Georgia not to run as the "two biggest recruiting failures of the cycle," and said the GOP is simply taking its time in finding the best candidates.
—This post was updated at 2:06 p.m. and 4:28 p.m.