DSCC hammers GOP on Senate 'recruiting nightmare' in 4 states

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.

ADVERTISEMENT
“The recruiting nightmare continues to embarrass national Republicans with this week possibly being one of the worst yet after major failures in Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, and Alaska, ” DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky said in the memo.

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 Gardner (R) opted against challenging Sen. Mark Udall (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 Bennet (D) when he's up in 2016.

North Carolina Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry (R) decided not to run for Sen. Kay Hagan'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 Braley (D) for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin'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 Murkowski (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 Begich.

“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 Capito (R-W.Va.), considered the strongest GOP contender to run for retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller's (D-W.Va.) seat.

In Kentucky, too, Democrats have yet to find a candidate to run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (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 Barrow (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.