The party committees will tell you, privately or otherwise, that aside from fundraising, recruiting the next crop of candidates is their top priority.
In the coming weeks, there will be a wealth of issues — and votes — for potential candidates to consider. The early weeks of the Obama administration will put research staffs and the blogosphere into overdrive, trying to piece together every provision being tucked into the stimulus package(s) Congress will consider — possibly creating several mini "Bridges to Nowhere."
GOPers are mindful that Democrats will try to use the period immediately following Obama's inauguration to rush through legislation otherwise unpalatable to voters — provisions that, taken as a whole or broken down into their components, will be difficult for members (or candidates) to defend back home.
Aside from the stimulus votes, perhaps no issue runs a bigger risk of causing grief for incumbent Democrats and discouraging potential Democratic candidates than that of card-check — legislation to allow workplaces to unionize without the secret ballot vote so many Americans hold dear as ensuring the validity of any vote. This is a top priority for Obama's supporters, who believe that with the White House, House and Senate all under Democrat control, such legislation will now move forward.
It's an issue potential candidates are following closely. One top Republican recruit, Tim GriffinTim GriffinTea Party class reassesses record Huckabee's daughter to run '16 campaign Lawmakers seek Purple Heart for victims of Little Rock shooting MORE of Arkansas, told The Associated Press as much, saying, "The card-check issue is obviously one of the primary motivating factors. It remains to be seen how that's going to turn out, but I think that should be a no-brainer for a senator representing Arkansas. The fact that it's not is just troubling."
(Note: Since Griffin's quote yesterday, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who would be Griffin's opponent should he be the Republican nominee, said she would vote against the card-check legislation. Well, sorta. She said the legislation is "not necessary" right now. Apparently, Sen. Lincoln believes denying the right to secret ballot voting may be necessary later.)
The candidates of 2010 could well be determined in the early months of 2009. If Congress and the White House go too far, the end result may be a top-flight group of Republican candidates, while many Democrats either stay on the sidelines or on the defensive.