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After a few potential candidates took a pass, the party is searching for top-tier talent in Iowa. Rep. Steve King said he won’t run, but a handful of potential lesser-known candidates are now openly considering the race. One, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker, said Monday that he will enter the race next month.
The party is also waiting for candidates to step up in top targets such as Arkansas, where freshman Rep. Tom Cotton is a possibility, and Alaska, where Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and 2010 nominee Joe Miller are both likely to run.
Republicans are also still awaiting candidates for Democratic-held seats in North Carolina, Virginia, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Colorado. And the GOP’s leading contender in Michigan, Rep. Mike Rogers, was just floated to head up the FBI.
The GOP has received heat in the media recently, Jesmer said, but Democrats have plenty of work to do as well.
“From what I hear behind the scenes, [Senate Republicans are] being really aggressive,” Jesmer said. “They’re going to have good candidates in a lot of places, and people need to relax. This isn’t May of 2014.”
Democrats have few offensive opportunities and instead must focus on defense, especially in states President Barack Obama failed to carry in 2012.
Democrats are waiting on candidates in vulnerable seats the party is defending in West Virginia and South Dakota, though party operatives indicate they have solid candidates interested in running there.
The GOP has the opposite problem in Georgia, where three congressmen have entered the Senate race already and another, Rep. Tom Price, is expected to announce whether he will run this month. Democrats hope an expensive GOP primary will help them in the Peach State.
Both parties are taking a closer look at Montana now, after Democratic Sen. Max Baucus announced his retirement last month. Democrats hope former Gov. Brian Schweitzer runs, while the GOP field could grow now that the seat is open.