“Recruitment failures across the country by national Republicans have rendered them unable to expand the map into blue and purple states, forcing them to play exclusively in red states where they’re mired in dangerous and divisive primaries that pit the establishment against the tea party,” DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky said. “Meanwhile, Democrats are on offense in Kentucky and Georgia, and our candidates are building organizational and financial advantages up and down the map.”
While spirited primaries have complicated the GOP’s efforts at winning back the Senate over the past couple of cycles, the GOP’s encouragement stems from a promising map and competitive candidates in place in many of them.
The GOP’s top targets include the open seats in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. While the party is still awaiting word from Rep. Steve Daines, its top potential recruit in Montana, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds have both been in place for nearly a year. Both face primaries.
Beyond those open-seat opportunities, the most-targeted incumbent Democrats include Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Republicans have top recruits in place in each race. All but one contest will feature a competitive primary.
Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan will announce his Senate campaign soon, but his entrance will mean a three-way GOP primary next August with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and tea party favorite Joe Miller for the chance to take on Begich. Republicans also face a crowded field in North Carolina, where state Speaker Thom Tillis may be the most well-known of the bunch.
Republicans’ two congressional recruits face divergent paths. Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana will have Republican company in the jungle primary with Landrieu, while Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is attractive to both wings of the party and faces no intraparty opposition.
“Without a single red seat in danger of turning blue, Republicans are completely on offense,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Republicans have a growing list of all-star recruits, Barack Obama’s numbers are tanking and history suggests a very rough midterm for the president’s party, which is why experts from Nate Silver to Larry Sabato agree that the Senate majority is very much in play.”