The Fix’s top 10 Senate races

June 28, 2013

Republican Gabriel Gomez's bid for the Senate in 2013 is history.

But it may not be the last the political world has heard from the first-time candidate and former Navy SEAL. Losing by 10 points to a well-funded Democrat in Massachusetts with little help from GOP allies is not a bad showing, and there are several possibilities that may be in the cards for Gomez, whs said before Election Day that "as a famous general once said in World War II, I shall return." Here are three possibilities for 2014:

(Steven Senne/Associated Press)
(Steven Senne/Associated Press)

* Senate: In his statement Tuesday night, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) suggested he'd welcome a Gomez 2014 run. "Today marks the end of the first mile in the marathon to permanently fill the Massachusetts Senate seat. Gabriel Gomez is well prepared to win that marathon over the next 16 months," Moran said. While Gomez would have Senate campaign experience and existing name recognition to build upon, Democrat Ed Markey will have more than a year to build a record in the upper chamber by the 2014 election. And absent a GOP wave-like environment, knocking him off could be even more difficult than it was this year. That reality could spur Gomez to look at another race.

* Governor: We don't know who the GOP candidates will be yet, but if Scott Brown and Charlie Baker run, Gomez will have a tough time competing. While Gomez has won good will for running in a Senate race other Republicans didn't want to jump into (including Brown), a contested primary against big name Republicans may not be the most ideal next step for him. On the other hand, if no one steps up in the governor's race, it could be a good opportunity for Gomez to settle into a state campaign, where Bay State Republicans have had more success than they have had at the federal level in recent years.

* Lieutenant governor: Another option for Gomez is lieutenant governor. It might make the most the sense for him, since it would be a more intermediate step, and not as demanding as running for governor, nor potentially as much of an uphill climb as competing with Markey again. And if he were to win, being lieutenant governor would provide Gomez with a natural platform to run for governor or Senate down the road.Gomez is not yet 50, so he's got some time to build his career. Pacing himself politically might be his best bet.

And now, to our list of the 10 Senate seats most likely to change control in 2014. As always, No. 1 is most likely to change control.

To the line!

10. Georgia (Republican-controlled)/Michigan (Democratic-controlled) (tie): These two remain tied for our 10th spot. The GOP got some good news and bad news in the last month as top potential recruit Rep. Mike Rogers opted not to run but former secretary of state Terri Lynn Land jumped in the race. Republicans at least have a statewide winner on the ballot against Rep. Gary Peters (D). As for Georgia, Democrats are still waiting on Michelle Nunn to get in, and the crowded GOP primary field has yet to really take shape. Both remain uphill climbs for the opposition party. (Previous ranking: 10)

9. Kentucky (R): The big question is (still) whether Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) will run. But groups on both sides are not waiting for her decision to begin pouncing. Two Democratic groups went on the air last week with a spot slamming Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), while a pro-McConnell super PAC jabbed back this week with a spot tethering Grimes to national Democrats. If Grimes gets in, this has the makings of a nasty race. (Previous ranking: 9)

8. Iowa (D): A new name entered the mix this week: retired energy company chief Mark Jacobs (R), who is forming an exploratory committee. Jacobs has the ability to self-fund if he wants to, which makes him an interesting potential candidate to watch, and reinforces that the GOP side of this race stands to be competitive absent a clear front-runner. Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side, Rep. Bruce Braley (D) has a clear path to the nomination. (Previous ranking: 8)

7. Montana (D): Former governor Brian Schweitzer (D) continues to create news in every way except announcing a Senate campaign. First he took the chairmanship of the board at a major mining company; then he gave a truly fantastic interview to Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad. We’re still under the assumption that he will run – thereby giving Democrats the edge in this race – but there is enough doubt to keep this race at No. 7 and a possible GOP pickup. (Previous ranking: 7)

6. North Carolina (D): State House Speaker Thom Tillis remains the lone major GOP candidate in this race so far, though there are several other Republicans running and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) is still weighing her options. While a state lawmaker may not seem like a top recruit, keep in mind that Sen. Kay Hagan (D) was elected out of the state Senate in 2008, and North Carolina is one of the purest battlegrounds on the map. (Previous ranking: 6)

5. Louisiana (D): Rep. Bill Cassidy remains the top GOP challenger to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), though there is another Republican in the race, Air Force veteran Rob Maness. There’s an even higher premium on the GOP avoiding infighting in this race, because it’s an open primary in which all candidates run. Assuming nobody gets a majority of the vote on Election Day, the Republican who survives to challenge Landrieu in the December runoff will have just a month to focus on her – rather than the regular two-plus months more GOP primary winners will have. (Previous ranking: 5)

4. Alaska (D): The good news for Republicans in this race is that Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R) made his campaign official earlier this month. Problematic 2010 GOP nominee Joe Miller (R) has filed papers for a run too, which complicates the GOP picture a bit. But at this point, it's hard to see Miller catching lightning in a bottle twice. And Treadwell gives Republicans a solid option for the general election. (Previous ranking: 4)

3. Arkansas (D): No incumbent has taken more heat over the airwaves than Sen. Mark Pryor (D), who has been getting it not just from conservative groups but also a leading gun control organization that was formed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I). This week, Pryor's potential opponent, Rep. Tom Cotton (R), also began to feel the pressure, as Democratic groups went up on the air against him preemptively. As with Grimes in Kentucky, the preemptive strike against Cotton in Arkansas is a reflection of his potential strength as a Senate candidate. Cotton would be a formidable opponent for Pryor, and Democrats understand that. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. West Virginia (D): Democrats continue to be without a candidate to run against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R), after a procession of them passed on the race. The two names left are Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis. Worth noting: Tennant has a young child at home, and Davis just started a 12-year term. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. South Dakota (D): This was already the most likely race to flip, and the fact that Rep. Kristi Noem (R) will not run against former governor Mike Rounds for the GOP nomination is even more good news for Republicans. Former Tom Daschle aide Rick Weiland is the only Democrat in the race for now. He'd be a big underdog against Rounds. (Previous ranking: 1)

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Vincent Bzdek | June 28, 2013