Campaign

Todd Young in talks about chairing Senate GOP campaign arm

Greg Nash

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), a freshman senator from a battleground state, is talking to colleagues about becoming the next chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), according to Republican sources.

Young is discussing taking the helm of the Senate GOP campaign arm after helping Republicans keep their majority two years ago by defeating former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, who was the heavy favorite initially in their 2016 race.

Many political prognosticators predicted that Democrats would take back control of the Senate in 2016 because Democratic voter turnout was expected to be higher than in midterm elections with presidential nominee Hillary Clinton atop the ticket.

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Democrats also had a favorable electoral map as Republicans had to defend 24 seats. 

Bayh had an early 20-point lead in the race as well as more than $9 million in his campaign account from his time in the Senate.

Young defied early predictions by defeating Bayh by 10 points, 52 percent to 42 percent.

“There are a lot of members who really like the idea of him doing it. He’s the giant-killer, he knocked off Evan Bayh when nobody thought he could do it with less money,” said a GOP source.

“He knows how to build a team, and he’s got a lot to offer. And he did all that during a presidential election year,” the source added. “A lot of members like the idea of him doing it because he has that background.” 

Young’s office declined to comment.

If he jumps in the race, Young could have an uncontested shot at the leadership position.

Mitt Romney, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) in Utah, has also been mentioned as a possible candidate to head the Senate GOP campaign committee.

But it would be highly unusual for a freshman to take that job in his first year in Congress.

The rumor among GOP strategists is that Romney is “not super interested” in the position, but some of his supporters are pushing for him to consider it.

Young will get an early audition for the NRSC chairmanship as he tries to help Republicans win the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.).

The Republican senator is working to unify the party behind businessman and former state lawmaker Mike Braun, who won last month’s hard-fought GOP primary for a chance to take on Donnelly in November.

Young has introduced Braun’s team to his own finance staff and encouraged the state party committee to quickly embrace the new nominee.

It took months for Indiana Republicans to rally behind Richard Mourdock, the Senate Republican nominee in 2012, after he defeated incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) in the primary. That delayed party unity helped Donnelly win in the general election that year.

Republicans overall have a tougher map in 2020, with an expected 21 or 22 seats to defend, while Democrats will likely only have to defend 12 seats.

The number of Republican seats up for reelection will depend on Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) — who was appointed to replace retired Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in April — winning reelection.

It will also depend on the health of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer and is up for reelection in 2022.

The number of Democratic seats up for reelection in 2020 will also depend on Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), who was appointed to replace Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) in January, winning her reelection in November.

Young served three terms in the House, representing Indiana’s 9th Congressional District.

He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and an outstanding soccer player, who earned a varsity letter in the sport in college and won a state championship in high school.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the current NRSC chair, is expected to step down from the position at the end of this year to focus on his 2020 reelection in a state Clinton carried by 5 points in 2016.

Gardner told The Hill last week that he doesn’t plan to run for another leadership position at year’s end.

“I am going to be focused on 2020,” he said. 

Updated at 6 p.m.

Tags Al Franken Cory Gardner Hillary Clinton Joe Donnelly John McCain Mitt Romney Orrin Hatch Thad Cochran Tina Smith Todd Young
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