Other possibilities include former Rep. Jon Porter, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and Sharron Angle, who just completed an expensive and unsuccessful challenge for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s seat.
Democrats mentioned so far include Rep. Shelley Berkley and Secretary of State Ross Miller.
Republicans are treating Manchin like he is their prime target in 2012, going after the former governor of West Virginia as if he had already announced he was seeking re-election. Manchin won a special election to serve out the remainder of the term of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D) and would face voters again in two years.
His office, preparing for the transition since Manchin was sworn in Monday, did not respond to repeated calls for comment about his political future.
West Virginia Republican sources said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) is the “obvious” choice to run for Senate in 2012. Should she pass on a bid, former Secretary of State Betty Ireland would be the best candidate, the sources said. Beyond that, there is a relatively thin bench with any statewide name recognition, a situation the GOP sources said spells chaos for the party two years from now if Capito does not run.
If Manchin does not seek re-election, one potential candidate is former Sen. Carte Goodwin, whom Manchin appointed to the seat after Byrd’s death this summer. But Goodwin may choose to run for state office or Congress instead, depending on the results of redistricting. Another name mentioned on the Democratic side is state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis, who would be able to self-fund her candidacy.
Manchin’s election leaves the governor’s mansion vacant, so the race to replace him will be the next contest commanding Mountain State voters’ attention. Sources from both parties think candidates to challenge Manchin will emerge once that race shakes out.
Stabenow is planning to run for re-election, but it’s unclear whom her opposition will be. She was re-elected in 2006 with 57 percent of the vote over a county sheriff. In 2010, Republicans made gains everywhere in Michigan, picking up the governorship and two House seats, as well as retaining control in the state Senate and winning control in the state House.
Since Michigan is likely to lose a House seat in redistricting, any of the state’s nine Republican Congressmen might have reason to consider challenging Stabenow. She has a $1.6 million campaign war chest.