Five major potential Senate candidates

Five major potential Senate candidates
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Some of most competitive Senate races in the country hinge on potential candidates who, for now, are still on the sidelines.

Some of the possible candidates are expected to enter their race but are biding their time. Others are less likely to jump in but could shake up the field if they do.

Here are five states worth watching for a potential candidate to upend a Senate race.


Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE’s (R-Tenn.) retirement, announced Tuesday, opens up the floodgates in Tennessee like only an unexpected vacancy can.

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in This week: Time running out for Congress to avoid shutdown House votes next week on abortion bill MORE (R-Tenn.) is considered an early favorite to jump in. She’s already announced she’ll take a look at a bid. Blackburn had been the top name floated by the pro-Trump forces looking for a primary challenge to Corker, but most Republicans were skeptical she would run unless Corker retired.

Right now, conservative activist Andy Ogles is the only significant candidate in the primary. But that’s likely to change with an entry by either Blackburn or two other Republicans who have been considering bids, state Sen. Mark Green and former state Rep. Joe Carr.

Green has had a tumultuous few months, ending his bid for governor to accept Trump’s appointment as Army secretary before eventually withdrawing over his controversial comments about gay rights. And Carr ran an unsuccessful primary against Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWeek ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare Time to end fiscal year foolishness MORE (R-Tenn.) in 2014 that was still closer than expected.


President Trump has made it clear that he wants a primary challenger for Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House Flake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense MORE (R-Ariz.), a frequent critic of the president. And his backers have responded in kind — GOP mega-donor and Trump supporter Robert Mercer donated $300,000 to a super PAC backing former Republican state Sen. Kelli Ward’s primary challenge, while Trump allies joined Ward’s campaign in August.

Trump has tweeted encouraging words about Ward’s challenge, but he’s stopped short of endorsing her. And he and allies have continued to speak with other potential primary candidates, including some seen as better general election candidates than Ward.

The talk centers mostly on Jeff DeWit, the Arizona state treasurer and former Trump campaign chief operating officer, and Robert Graham, the former Arizona GOP chairman. Both men, as well as Ward, met with the White House over the summer. Since many state Republicans are skeptical that the ultra-conservative Ward can win in a general election, either man could have a chance at supplanting her as the leading GOP alternative to Flake.

But Ward remains undeterred, particularly as public head-to-head polling shows her leading Flake in a primary by a healthy margin. It’s unclear whether either DeWit or Graham will decide to run, or how a bid could shape the race. But as conservatives continue to call for Flake’s ouster, this race could continue to heat up.


The Wolverine State is home to two very different potential Republican candidates.

Detroit singer Kid Rock, whose real name is Robert Ritchie, has captivated the political world with his repeated flirtations with a Senate bid against Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate Finance Dems want more transparency on trade from Trump Prominent Michigan Republican drops out of Senate primary GOP chairman shoots down Democrat effort to delay tax work until Jones is seated MORE (D-Mich.).

While Ritchie hasn’t announced whether he will actually run, he’s selling shirts adorned with his campaign logo. He has also peppered his recent tour with political statements and diatribes, injecting himself into the political discussion.

While many Republicans believe Ritchie would be a strong candidate thanks to his notoriety, they doubt that he’ll follow through.

That’s not the case with Rep. Fred Upton, the longtime Michigan Republican who has begun sending signals about a potential bid. A source close to Upton told The Hill he’s still considering a bid. It’s one that Michigan Republicans are taking far more seriously than Ritchie’s flirtations with the race.

Upton has been a decades-long fixture of Michigan Republican politics, once serving as the chairman of the House Energy Committee. A likely bid would make him the clear front-runner to win the Republican primary — the remaining candidates have only a sliver of the name recognition and resources that he does. Upton is also believed to have the best shot of beating Stabenow in the general election.


Republicans are salivating at the chance to knock off Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Week ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE (D) in Florida, encouraged after President Trump narrowly won the state in 2016. But no big names have taken the plunge yet for one reason — Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott is far and away the favorite in the Republican primary. His personal wealth means he can jump-start his campaign by self-funding, his name identification is through the roof after two terms as governor, and he’s won two tough statewide races. Maybe most important of all, Trump has publicly called on him to run.

That’s not to say Scott would sail through the general election. His ongoing response to the devastation of Hurricane Irma provides both opportunities to show his leadership and potential risks, especially in his government’s handling of multiple deaths at a nursing home during the storm. Scott’s close political ties to Trump could also prove to be a mixed bag in a purple state.

Scott would immediately enter the race as the strongest Republican candidate, so he can take his time.


If nothing changes, Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerTrump, GOP make peace after tax win — but will it last? Bipartisan senators: Americans need more security info for internet-connected devices Overnight Defense: House GOP going with plan to include full year of defense spending | American held as enemy combatant also a Saudi citizen | Navy adding oxygen monitors to training jets after issues MORE will have an easy reelection in the deep-red state.

But as former Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon begins to agitate for more primary challenges from the right to incumbent Republicans, Wicker could find his race changing rapidly.

Bannon’s orbit is chattering about the prospect of backing a primary challenge by Chris McDaniel, the state senator who fell just short of toppling Republican Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTrump's chief agricultural negotiator will fight for American farmers Rep. Cummings hospitalized, wife suspends gubernatorial campaign Medical cannabis community must join together and resist any action taken against us MORE in a 2014 runoff. Bannon has met with McDaniel, who attended a Bannon-headlined rally in Alabama on Monday night ahead of the state’s Republican Senate primary runoff.

McDaniel’s last primary race featured scorched-earth tactics as the party establishment fought the Tea Party. McDaniel later refused to concede the race to Cochran, alleging that illegal votes were cast in the race.

McDaniel already had success in 2014 framing his bid as a fight with the establishment. If Bannon and his allies jump on board to back him, Wicker’s path to reelection could become a lot more complicated.