Capito, representing a blue-collar constituency, is unapologetic about seeking federal funds for her state, even if it draws hackles from certain fiscal conservatives. But that’s what makes her an imposing GOP candidate, cognizant of the needs of her state, often dependent on federal funds. It’s highly unlikely she’ll receive a credible primary challenge despite the threats; there isn’t any bench of conservative Republicans in the state.
Capito could soon be joined by other aspiring Republicans in what’s shaping up to be an imposing recruiting class. Rounds formed an exploratory committee in September; like Capito, his biggest challenge in deeply Republican South Dakota will be avoiding a primary challenge from his right. He’s looking to follow the path as his northern neighbor, Sen. John Hoeven, another personally-liked governor who coasted to a landslide Senate victory.
Nearly the entire Arkansas Republican Congressional delegation – save for Rep. Rick Crawford – are considering campaigns against Sen. Mark Pryor, a moderate Democrat whose surname is nearly as storied in the state as the Clinton name.. (He’s the son of former Sen. David Pryor, who served the state as governor, senator and representative.) Pryor was so untouchable six years ago that not a single Republican stepped forward to challenge him; he won 80 percent against a Green Party candidate. Now Arkansas Republican wags expect a contested primary between multiple credible opponents, with Reps. Tim Griffin, Steve Womack and lieutenant governor Mark Darr looking like the leading contenders. Griffin, just promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, has a compelling biography, but Womack hails from northwest Arkansas, the region with the most Republican votes in the state.
Other races have yet to take shape, but there’s interest from Republicans looking to challenge sitting Democratic senators. In Louisiana, Rep. Bill Cassidy has banked over $2 million in his campaign account, most of that coming in the last year, despite facing no serious re-election campaign. In solidly-Republican Alaska, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is expected to face a tough challenge, with the state’s lieutenant governor Mead Treadwell a possible opponent. And we’re not even in December yet.
It’s far too premature to assess the trajectory of the 2014 cycle, but it’s clear that Democrats will be playing exclusively on defense with their 55-seat Senate majority. Moran faces the task of recruiting well-regarded candidates and getting them through the nomination process, which proved to be a lot tougher than expected in 2012. But if the early movement is indicative of a trend, he won’t need to do much heavy lifting.