Dewhurst's candidacy is not certain. He would be the decided front-runner if he entered the race. But he recently floated the possibility that he might run for governor
in 2014 instead.
The race will heat up after Dewhurst he announces what he is going to do, regardless of his decision. If he runs, the other Republicans will have to consider how best to navigate a field with such a well-known candidate. What's more, Sen. Jim DeMint
(R-S.C.) could potentially back a candidate that is not Dewhurst (DeMint has touted
Cruz and Williams). A National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson said Chairman John Cornyn
is planning to remain neutral, but his role will be closely scrutinized throughout the primary.
Sen. Robert Menendez
(D) should be in decent shape, given that he represents a Democratic-leaning state in a presidential year.
The X-factor in this race is the possible candidacy of GOP businessman John Crowley
. Crowley, a biotechnology executive, quit his day job to work on discovering a cure for his two children, who had a rare genetic disease. His story was made into a movie, and since he considered entering politics, he's been viewed very favorably by national Republicans.
With Christie generating positive buzz for New Jersey Republicans, it's likely a Menendez-Crowley matchup would be interesting, to say the least. Menendez would start out as the favorite, but Crowley's deep pockets and impressive life story would make this a potential barnburner.
Republicans have their eye on Sen. Sherrod Brown
(R) and their top recruit for the race, state Treasurer Josh Mandel
(R), has been inching
toward entering the race.
Mandel, a strong fundraiser who impressed Republicans with his biography and decisive victory in the treasurer's race, has quietly filed statement of candidacy forms to challenge Brown. Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell
(R) is considering
running and would make the primary a battle between one current rising conservative star and one from the past.
Snowe, on paper, looks highly vulnerable to a primary challenge as one of the most moderate Republicans remaining in the Senate. And until the filing deadline passes next year, we won't be convinced that she's out of the woods. But for much of 2011, she's avoided the threat of a serious conservative primary challenge - a testament to her widespread popularity in the state.
On the other hand, the well-funded Tea Party Express has identified Snowe as one of their top targets -- and they've had success against other moderates, like Delaware's Mike Castle
and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski
. If they involve themselves more aggressively, things could get messy. And Democrats claim to be serious about recruiting a serious challenge, with the race making it on DSCC Chair Patty Murray's
top GOP-held targets, but no big-name Democrat is yet in the race.