Rep. Marlin Stutzman will announce an Indiana Senate bid Saturday, according to multiple sources with knowledge of his plans, making him the second Republican to join the open-seat race.
Stutzman joins Eric Holcomb, a former Coats chief of staff , in the primary field. Reps. Todd Young and Todd Rokita also are mulling the race.
Stutzman is a favorite of the conservative Club for Growth, while Holcomb, a former chairman of the Indiana Republican Party, is a more business-friendly candidate. Indiana Republicans say Young, who also is actively considering the race but has yet to make a final decision, can appeal to both camps.
Rokita has said publicly he is weighing a run, but multiple GOP operatives say he is likely more interested in running for governor down the road.
Still, in a potential three-way race, Democrats say Stutzman could push the field to the right, potentially causing the eventual nominee problems in a general election match-up.
"We're confident that no matter who runs on our side it’s a close race," said Justin Barasky, communications director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "And they have the potential to have a messy primary and make things more difficult for themselves."
Stutzman — who ran for Senate in 2010 but lost a primary to Coats — was one of the 25 Republicans to vote against Rep. John A. Boehner for speaker earlier this year.
During the government shutdown in October 2013, when the GOP was catching most of the blame for the shuttering of federal agencies, Stutzman said, "We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is." President Barack Obama used the line as fodder during the negotiations to end the shutdown.
Some Democrats have drawn comparisons between Stutzman and former state Treasurer Richard Mourdock — Indiana's 2012 GOP nominee for Senate who ousted longtime Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar and whose implosion in the final weeks of the race ultimately led to a Democratic pick-up.
Stutzman's office did not return requests for comment.
Indiana Republicans say Stutzman is not like Mourdock.
"If you look at Marlin for longer than five minutes, that’s a tough connection to make," said one Indiana GOP operative with ties to Stutzman. "Marlin is conservative, he voted against Boehner for speaker and he's not afraid to put himself out there. ... He's conservative, not just pissed off."
While Republicans fell victim to divisive primaries that cost them opportunities in 2010 and 2012, the GOP avoided those same problems in 2014. Republicans had primaries last cycle in key states such as Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina, but the GOP nominees all went on to win decisive victories in the general election.
President Barack Obama competed in Indiana fiercely in 2008 and won it by a 1-point margin, marking the first time a Democratic presidential nominee carried the state since 1964. But four years later, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the state with 54 percent.
What's more, Democrats still need a candidate.
National Democrats want former Sen. Evan Bayh to wage a comeback bid. Bayh retired in 2010, and left Congress with more than $10 million in his campaign account.
Yet multiple Democratic operatives said Bayh is unlikely to enter the race.
If Bayh ultimately passes on the contest, former Rep. Baron Hill and state Rep. Christina Hale are likely to take the plunge.
The Senate race is rated a Republican Favored contest by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.
With his Senate bid, Stutzman must vacate the 3rd District. The district, based in and around Fort Wayne, Ind., is considered safe for Republicans — Romney carried it with 63 percent in 2012.
Indiana Republicans say state Sen. Jim Banks will likely take a look at the House race, and would be the front-runner if he got in. A Naval Reserve officer, Banks was first elected to the state Senate in 2010. He went on a leave of absence to serve in Afghanistan, and his wife, Amanda Banks, temporarily served in his place.
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