NRSC Recruitment Update
A little over two months ago, I took a look at the state of NRSC recruiting in the one open seat (Colorado) and the twelve states with Democratic incumbents, concluding, up to that point in time, that the NRSC was 0-for-13 in recruiting so far. Keep in mind that we're approaching the dog days of summer, not a heavy recruitment period. (Note that during June-August of 2005, only five Senate candidates announced, all five of whom were Republican losers.) So where does the state of NRSC recruitment stand, and what has changed in the last two months?
Colorado: New CO-GOP chief Dick Wadhams muscled the more moderate Scott McInnis out to make room for his good pal conservative "Backwards" Bob Schaffer, who will, barring any unforeseen events, be the Republican nominee for Senate. Schaffer then proceeded to have a stammering start to his campaign, embarrassing himself right from the start, before hiring a bunch of electoral losers to staff his campaign. Never mind that Democratic Congressman Mark Udall has a significant advantage in fundraising and a big head start in reaching out to voters. I suppose we could credit the GOP with an accomplishment for finding a living, breathing human being who has held office before and ostensibly has a base of support to run. But, with Colorado's trending blue over the last few years, muscling out the more moderate choice for the more conservative one might not have been the best play.
Arkansas: Since Republican former Governor and current Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, arguably the only Republican to give Senator Mark Pryor a real challenge, ruled out a Senate bid, it also came out that Pryor saw better Q1 fundraising for his Senate re-election than Huckabee saw for his Presidential bid. So no Arkansas Republicans seem to be stepping up to the plate at present. Meanwhile, the new Chair of the AR-GOP, who should be out looking for challengers to Pryor, is instead getting himself in trouble with comments like "I think all we need is some attacks on American soil." In a nutshell, as it stands now in Arkansas, the Green Party is doing better than the Republican Party when it comes to Senate recruitment.
Delaware: Nothing new then; nothing new now. Still zip from the DE-GOP.
Illinois: The NRSC met with wealthy businessman Steve Greenberg. He however turned down their entreaties and is considering a House bid, leaving political unknown Steve Sauerberg as the sole announced Republican candidate. Having lost one potential self-funder in Greenberg, expect the GOP to seek out another potential self-funder before writing off the seat and settling for token opposition.
Iowa: While Senator Harkin had a strong Q1, GOP Rep. Tom Latham barely raised a solid amount by House standards, much less Senate standards; and GOP Rep. Steve King raised next to nothing, with a scant amount for cash-on-hand. It's getting safer to assume that Harkin won't have a strong opponent. The Iowa Republican Senate primary could wind up being between businessman Steve Rathje, businessman Troy Cook, and part-time tae kwon do instructor Bob McDowell. Um, yeah.
Louisiana: Here's the summary that I penned for Daily Kingfish a little less than a month ago:
Bobby Jindal is running for Governor. GOP Congressmen Charles Boustany and Jim McCrery have both taken their names out of the running. GOP Congressman Richard Baker has a whopping $66,000 cash-on-hand. And Jay Dardenne, who is already polling significantly behind the "vulnerable" [Senator Mary] Landrieu, is embarrassing himself. In fact, the only Republicans who have demonstrated any interest are Woody Jenkins and Suzanne Haik Terrell, the two Republicans Landrieu has already defeated.Since this summary, the only development has been Karl Rove trying to get the Democratic state Treasurer to switch Parties to run against Landrieu. I suppose that even Rove doubts there are any strong Republican challengers. The LA-GOP and NRSC really don't have much to show for all of Landrieu's supposed vulnerability.
Massachusetts: A token opponent has stepped forward:
Jeff Beatty, who took less than 30% of the vote in a 2006 Congressional race and raised less than $50,000. The Congressional district Beatty ran in was the most favorable to Bush and least favorable to Kerry in 2004 of any of Massachusetts' ten Congressional districts; so, if Beatty couldn't crack 30% or manage any significant fundraising in that district, it's unlikely that he'd be able to accomplish anything further statewide.It's not like the MA-GOP doesn't have access to some known quantities: Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift, Kerry Healey, Andrew Card, Curt Schilling. But they'll settle, for now, for Jeff Beatty.
Michigan: To plagiarize from the Delaware entry above: "Nothing new then; nothing new now."
Montana: Only two Republicans have been suggested as having the capability to give popular Senator Max Baucus a challenge: former Governor Mark Racicot, who has been silent; and, GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg, who CQPolitics characterized as "resisting GOP efforts to draft him into the race." The CQPolitics article also notes that former Montana House Republican leader Michael Lange was considered a possibility until his obscene tirade against Governor Brian Schweitzer. For now, it's all quiet on the Western front.
New Jersey: With known quantities like Christie Todd Whitman, Chris Christie, and members of the Kean family sitting out, it looks like there is an NJ-GOP Senate primary brewing between conservative assemblyman Michael Doherty and less-conservative real estate developer Anne Evans Estabrook. Estabrook has the support of GOP Rep. Mike Ferguson, Kean family ties, and sizable personal wealth. Doherty also has the support of several notable New Jersey Republicans, as well as the apparent backing of NJ's conservative mouthpieces. While Senator Frank Lautenberg should handily dispatch either, Estabrook's personal wealth and more moderate positions (at least compared with Doherty) would likely make her the less easily-beatable opponent.
Rhode Island: To plagiarize from the Michigan and Delaware entries above: "Nothing new then; nothing new now."
South Dakota: With Senator Tim Johnson's recovery moving along steadily, South Dakota Republicans are beginning to step up to the plate. Two have indicated interest in a run: state representative Joel Dykstra and businessman Sam Kephart. With Tim Johnson's existing popularity coupled with sympathy from his impressive recovery, it is doubtful that either of these challengers would be formidable, while far-right conservative Gov. Mike Rounds remains mum on possible Senate plans.
West Virginia: About a month ago, I summed up the situation in West Virginia:
With Shelley Moore Capito taking a pass on a Senate bid, Republicans are now looking to GOP Secretary of State Betty Ireland and multiple-time-loser John Raese to take on popular Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller. In 2004, Ireland squeaked to a 52-48 victory; and, in 2006, Raese lost to Senator Robert Byrd by a 64-34 thrashing. Not exactly rainmakers on the WV-GOP bench.Nothing has changed since that point.
So, among the thirteen seats discussed here, ten states (Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Rhode Island, and West Virginia) currently offer no Republican opposition or only token opposition. Two states (New Jersey and South Dakota) see Republican opposition in the more-than-token but less-than-strong range. And one state (open seat Colorado) sees a Republican contender, though the race still favors the Democrat and is the likeliest of seats up for election in 2008 to switch control (from GOP to Democrat). With the dog days of summer ahead, the NRSC just doesn't seem too concerned with candidate recruitment.