As the GOP eyes pathways to a Senate majority in 2014, Phil Berger, the president pro tem of the North Carolina state Senate, says he's been mulling a campaign against Sen. Kay Hagan, who is among a handful of vulnerable Southern Democrats up for reelection.
"I've been approached by a number of folks who've suggested that that's something that I need to consider, or something that they would like for me to consider," said Berger, in an interview Monday with National Journal and Hotline On Call. "I've thought about it some."
"There will be time to make a decision about whether I do that [jump into the Senate race], or I support someone else in that effort as we move forward," Berger added.
Berger is one of several Republicans rumored to be considering a challenge to Hagan next year, including some in the GOP with whom Berger has close ties. Berger works closely with state House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Rep. Virginia Foxx helped recruit Berger to run for the state Senate.
Rep. Renee Ellmers's office also said that the congresswoman is "praying and thinking" about a potential Senate run.
Berger seems acutely aware that Republicans flubbed their chance to take back the Senate by blowing perfectly winnable races with flawed candidates.
"Particularly in the Senate races, I think it was more of a failure on the part of getting the right candidates and a failure on the part of the candidates to run good campaigns, a failure in some respects on the part of the local parties and the national party to do what needed to be done," he said.
Berger breezed to reelection last year, and yet his campaign produced a slick 14-minute biography Web video and ran two shorter TV spots in the Greensboro market during his 2012 primary, which happens to be Hagan's home base. One focused on his personal narrative while the other highlighted his accomplishments in the state Senate.
He said North Carolinians would be ready for a change in their leadership in Washington, citing the "total dysfunction" in D.C. that he believes "is deeply seated in the U.S. Senate." Berger painted Hagan as a liberal who was out of touch with the sensibilities of her constituents.
"It's really the disconnect between her votes for Obamacare and where the people in North Carolina are," said Berger. "It's a total disconnect between where she is on labor issues and where the people of North Carolina are."
"She's conservative at home, [but] she votes as a liberal when she goes to Washington," continued Berger. "She's someone who's representative of the state when she's talking to groups in North Carolina, but when she's pushing the button to vote in the Senate, she's voting with Harry Reid and with the national Democrats, and that's an agenda that is totally at odds with the agenda that the people of North Carolina would like their United States Senator to be adhering to."
The GOP may have struggled nationally in 2012, but the Tar Heel State was a bright spot for the party. Republicans turned the state red at the presidential level, made gains in the state legislature in November, and Pat McCrory won the race for governor -- the first time a Republican had been elected to the office in almost 20 years. Meanwhile, a favorable new congressional map led the party to pick up three House seats. GOP consultants have said they expect the party to have the momentum going into the next election, with Hagan viewed as vulnerable in a state that was carried by Mitt Romney.
Berger was in Washington to speak at an event for the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee. His speech was focused on how Republicans could run successful state legislatutive campaigns. Berger did not meet with the National Republican Senatorial Committee while in town, according to Ray Martin, political director for the state Senate GOP caucus.