The Fix’s top 10 Senate races of 2014

April 5, 2013

Is Scott Brown about to hatch a political comeback ... in New Hampshire?

"I’m not going to rule out anything right now," the former Massachusetts Republican senator said Thursday when asked whether he was interested in running against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in 2014.

While Brown's political profile fits the mold of the state nicely, there are several reasons to believe it simply won't happen.


(Associated Press)

"His comments make for fun talk around the water cooler but it is not realistic and not particularly respectful of the people of New Hampshire," said veteran New Hampshire Republican strategist Michael Dennehy.

For starters, Brown would instantly face carpetbagging charges. (Even though he has a house in the state, he lives in Massachusetts.) Meeting the legal requirements is pretty easy when it come to qualifying for a Senate run; according to the Secretary of State's office, Brown would simply need to become a registered voter in New Hampshire. But the political reception could be much more difficult for the Republican to deal with.

"I don't think New Hampshire voters will take too kindly to having a nonresident run for this seat," said Democratic strategist Jim Demers. "It is one of the most unusual political ideas I have heard in a long time."

Added University of New Hampshire political scientist Dante Scala: "New Hampshire voters have been open to voting for people from other states, but typically, they have been here for a little while."

There are at least three other factors that could spur Brown not to run. One, Shaheen is pretty popular. Secondly, there are other Republicans from the state who might also be eying a bid, including former senator John Sununu and former congressmen Frank Guinta and Jeb Bradley. Finally, there is an open 2014 governor's race in Brown's home state that might look more appealing to him.

Brown has joined Fox News as a contributor since leaving the Senate, and he's been working at a law firm. He sounds like someone who has another campaign left in him -- the question is where and when.

While the where could be New Hampshire and that when could be 2014, there are simply too many reasons to regard it as anything more than a remote possibility at this point.

And now, to the Line! Below is our latest rundown of the top 10 Senate races of the cycle, ranked as usual from the safest — No. 10 — to the most in danger — No. 1.

10. Georgia (Republican-controlled): Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey are both on the list of candidates who national Republicans would rather not nominate in this open-seat race. But even if GOP voters pick a less-than-great candidate, Democrats still need to put up someone who is able to take advantage of just such a situation (a la then-Rep. Joe Donnelly in Indiana). In Georgia, that conversation begins (and maybe ends) with Rep. John Barrow. (Previous ranking: N/A)

9. Montana (Democratic-controlled): Sen. Max Baucus (D) will face a Republican who few people in Washington have ever heard of; that much we know. Former state senator Corey Stapleton, who lost the 2012 GOP gubernatorial nomination, is so far joined in the primary by state Rep. Champ Edmunds, who looks like he will be the conservative alternative in this race. The GOP primary  is very fluid, so keep an eye on who jumps in. Baucus’s numbers have recovered since the health-care debate, but he remains vulnerable. (Previous ranking: 9)

8. Kentucky (R): With Ashley Judd out of the picture can Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell breathe a little easier? Not necessarily. In fact, Senate Democrats are arguably better off. Judd would have been a well-funded, universally-known candidate. But she’s also made a number of public statements that would have been easy fodder for the GOP in the conservative state. The Democratic attention now shifts to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who would be a capable McConnell opponent. The Republican leader remains vulnerable, and with a strong recruit, Democrats have some hope of unseating him. (Previous ranking: 8)

7. Iowa (D): Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley's latest fundraising report showed why Democrats were so giddy about about him jumping into the race for retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin's seat. Braley, a good fundraiser, brought in more than $1 million since Harkin announced his retirement in late January. On the Republican side, the biggest question continues to be whether Rep. Steve King will make a bid. The primary is arguably his to lose if he runs, but the congressman's outspoken, conservative brand of politics isn't the best fit for the general election. (Previous ranking: 7)

6. Arkansas (D): Speculation on the GOP side has centered around freshman Rep. Tom Cotton, the rare Republican who can unite the Club for Growth crowd and the establishment. He’s young (35), but pretty much everyone in the GOP is banking on him at this point. The question is whether it’s too soon after winning his congressional seat, and if it is, whether Republicans can produce another strong challenger to Sen. Mark Pryor (D), who is hampered by being a Democrat in an increasingly red state. Lt. Gov. Mark Darr (R) is likely to run, and he may have the inside track if Cotton passes. This is a very winnable seat for the GOP. (Previous ranking: 6)

5. North Carolina (D): Sen. Kay Hagan (D) recently came out in favor of gay marriage – a somewhat dicey proposition in a Southern state that just went for Mitt Romney in the presidential race. The Tar Heel State, much like Montana, so far features a lesser-known crop of GOP lawmakers, including state Senate President Phil Berger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, second-term Rep. Renee Ellmers and state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry. (Previous ranking: 4)

4. Louisiana (D): Senate Republicans received some good news this week when Rep. John Fleming (R) announced that he would not compete with Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) for the Republican Senate nomination. Cassidy may end up having the field to himself, now that Fleming, Lt Gov. Jay Dardenne and Rep. Charles Boustany have passed on the race. That would be an ideal situation for the GOP in the run-up to the general election showdown against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D). But if former congressman Jeff Landry -- who is popular with the tea party -- runs, Cassidy's path to the nomination won't be as smooth. (Previous ranking: 5)

3. Alaska (D): The GOP field to face Sen. Mark Begich (D) is likely to be crowded, with only one person who could change that. You thought we were going to say Sarah Palin, but in fact we’re referring to her lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell, who is now a very popular governor. He’s given little indication, though, that he’s leaning toward a bid. For now, Parnell’s lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, has opened an exploratory committee, and other possible candidates include Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, 2010 GOP nominee Joe Miller and former lieutenant governor Loren Leman. But Miller tanked after winning the nomination in 2010, and his numbers remain so bad that it's hard to see him winning the primary. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. South Dakota (D): The retirement of Sen. Tim Johnson (D) doesn't change the fact that this will be a tough race for Democrats. Who will run in Johnson's place? His son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson is one possibility. Another is former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. If they both run, Democrats could be in for a competitive primary.  On the Republican side, top recruit and former governor Mike Rounds is still in the driver's seat. But if Rep. Kristi Noem (R) runs, Republicans could be in for a competitive contest of their own. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. West Virginia (D): Democrats need a candidate here before the discussion can begin in earnest about how much of a chance they have to hold this open seat. One name to keep an eye on is attorney Nick Preservati, a wealthy pro-coal Democrat who would likely try to position himself as a Joe Manchin-esque moderate. Meanwhile, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican front-runner, raised a very impressive $915,000 during the first quarter. (Previous ranking: 1)

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