Five states where GOP recruits could make difference in fight for Senate

It's do-or-die time for Republicans trying to recruit strong Senate candidates who could help them win back the upper chamber next year.

The party has an outside chance of winning the five or six seats it needs to retake control, but needs to find top-tier recruits in several states and is running out of time to do so.

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Sen. Frank Lautenberg's (D-N.J.) death and the appointment of a Republican to his seat narrowed Democrats' majority to 54-46, but the GOP will be the underdog in New Jersey's special election in October.

Here are five states where the party needs to land strong candidates to broaden the battleground and have a hope of winning back the Senate.

Michigan

Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-Mich.) impending retirement has given the GOP a shot in the slightly Democratic-leaning state, but so far they haven’t landed their top recruit: Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.).

National Republicans have been salivating over Rogers for months, but many Michigan Republicans don’t think he’ll give up his House Intelligence Committee chairmanship and a safe House seat for a tough Senate race.

Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) has entered the race against Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Democrats’ de facto nominee, but party leaders in the state and in Washington would be more confident with Rogers.

Iowa

Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) is one of several high-profile GOP candidates who have passed on the race to succeed Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

Some in the GOP still hope to convince Latham to run, as they see him as their best hope to defeat Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa).

It he stays out, it would leave the GOP with former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker and David Young, who until recently was Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) chief of staff.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) wants state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), who is seriously considering a bid, to enter the race. Former Reliant Energy CEO Mark Jacobs (R), a potential self-funding candidate, is also mulling a bid.

National Republicans say they’re hopeful the primary will help battle-test the eventual nominee — but admit that their situation isn’t ideal.

Montana

State Republicans hope former GOP Gov. Marc Racicot will run to succeed Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.).

Racicot has been very quiet since Baucus’s surprise decision — partly because of a recent death in the family, according to sources — and hasn’t given any indication that he’ll run.

If he doesn’t, Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) is another option.

Democrats think they could have a strong candidate if former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) enters the race.

If he does, it would put Democrats in a good position, though state Republicans think Racicot would be a top recruit in the GOP-leaning state.

Arkansas

Freshman Rep. Tom Cotton (Ark) is the GOP’s preferred candidate against Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), perhaps the most vulnerable Democrat running in next year’s Senate elections. President Obama won just 37 percent of the vote last year in Arkansas.

Cotton, a freshman in the House, has been doing everything he needs to do to jump in the race. He’s posted strong fundraising figures, met with party leaders in Washington and is expected to run.

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) has said he’s open to a bid, but most Republicans prefer Cotton and will be relieved if and when he finally enters the race.

New Hampshire

Any GOP candidate will likely face an uphill battle against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), but Republicans hope they’ll have a star candidate in former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

If Brown crosses the border and enters the race, they say he’d start off within striking distance of the popular Shaheen.

Brown would have to survive attacks on carpet-bagging, but has the type of centrist profile that could win over some swing voters and make Shaheen nervous.

Former Reps. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) and Jeb Bradley (R-N.H.) are both considering bids, but national Republicans acknowledge they’d be in a stronger position with Brown.