Neither has generated substantial excitement among local Republicans, however. Look for the field to develop in the coming months.
Longtime Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack is mentioned as a possible candidate, as are state Sens. Kim Ward and Jake Corman. Reps. Charlie Dent and Jim Gerlach have been part of the conversation but aren’t expected to run.
In his special Senate election bid last year, then-Gov. Joe Manchin (D) ran an ad that featured him loading a rifle and shooting a hole in the cap-and-trade bill, as well as pronouncing that he has sued the Environmental Protection Agency, would “take on” the Obama administration, would cut federal spending and would “repeal the bad parts of Obamacare.”
Since being elected in November and instantly starting a new election cycle as he runs for a full term, Manchin has continued to speak out against President Barack Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders. That will likely serve him well, as Obama lost the state by 13 points in 2008.
No top-tier Republican has stepped forward to run, in part because the focus this year is on the special gubernatorial election to replace Manchin. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been targeting Manchin since last year and is not expected to give him a free pass. This would become a far more competitive race if Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) decides to run. She declined to run against Manchin last year in the special election but is keeping her options open this time around.
The competitiveness of this seat depends on whether 76-year-old Sen. Herb Kohl (D) decides to retire. The wealthy NBA team owner would have been down to about $4,000 in cash on hand by the end of 2010 had he not loaned his campaign $1 million, a signal that the four- term Senator wants to run.
An open-seat race would put the seat in jeopardy, even with no GOP opponent yet apparent. A Kohl re-election run, however, does not mean the race could not be competitive for Republicans. Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) saw now-Sen. Ron Johnson (R), a wealthy businessman with no political experience, come out of nowhere and pull off a 5-point win.
So far, the focus in Wisconsin has been squarely on Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the state Legislature, with a movement toward recall elections for state Senators and possibly even Walker. What happens there could also play a big role in what the Senate race looks like a year from now.