Cleaver is the oldest member of the Missouri delegation, but he’s not expected to retire any time soon.
Republicans mentioned Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer might consider a run for governor in 2016, thereby freeing up his 3rd District seat, but Luetkemeyer would likely face stiff primary competition from state Auditor Tom Schweich, who faces re-election in 2014, and former Missouri Speaker Catherine Hanaway.
If Luetkemeyer runs statewide, GOP state Sens. Tom Dempsey, Mike Kehoe and Scott Rupp are top prospects for his seat.
The next best statewide opportunity for Democrats comes in 2016, when Sen. Roy Blunt is up for re-election. But Blunt, the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, is not expected to retire after serving a single term.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who will be term-limited in 2016, will have the “right of first refusal” in challenging Blunt that year, a Democratic operative said. But Duffy countered that the likely Democratic nominee against Blunt will be Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel.
In 2018, Republicans will have another shot at defeating second-term Sen. Claire McCaskill. In 2012, the Democrat handily defeated her Republican challenger, then-Rep. Todd Akin, who mortally wounded his campaign with comments about “legitimate rape.”
Hanaway, Schweich and Rep. Ann Wagner are potential contenders to face her in 2018.
There are six more up-and-coming pols whom many local Republicans consider the best of their bench: state Reps. Caleb Jones, Timothy Jones and Todd Richardson and state Sens. John T. Lamping, Kurt Schaefer and Eric Schmitt.
Jones, Schmitt and Lamping serve within the 2nd District, which Wagner holds, and Caleb Jones and Schaefer serve within the 4th District, which Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler holds. Richardson serves within the 8th District, Smith’s territory.
Some of these six Republicans might be more likely to pursue a statewide position such as attorney general or treasurer, rather than a congressional seat, a Republican operative noted.
In addition, state Rep. Paul Curtman recently put himself on the GOP’s radar with a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference that “really blew people’s door off,” a Republican operative said.
Comparing him to Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, the operative said Curtman leans libertarian and is a stellar orator.
Farm Team is a weekly, state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.