Party veterans say they are increasingly concerned that a prolonged standoff in Washington could damage their prospects for winning back the Senate in 2014.
“You can see that in the different reaction of Senate Republicans” compared with their House counterparts, a prominent GOP pollster said.
Like several other Republican strategists interviewed for this article, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to publicly disparage his party’s prospects or those of his clients.
GOP senators — with a few notable exceptions, including and led by Ted Cruz (Tex.) — have been far more skeptical about the political wisdom of the shutdown engineered by House Republicans.
And now that it is underway, the party is looking for ways to distance its Senate candidates from the ensuing mess.
“It’s a referendum on Washington,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Democrats have controlled Washington for the past five years.”
That, however, may be a harder argument to make for the seven GOP House members expected to seek Senate seats. All are in relatively conservative states, where the party believes it stands a good chance of winning next fall.
They include three candidates in a primary for the open Senate seat in Georgia: Reps. Paul C. Broun, Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston.
In West Virginia, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is considered a strong favorite to pick up an open seat, now held by Democrat John D. Rockefeller IV, for the Republicans.
Reps. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana are the Republican Party’s best hopes for beating vulnerable Democratic incumbents.
And in Montana, Rep. Steve Daines is expected to soon announce that he is running for the open seat that will result from a Democratic retirement.
All seven voted for a House bill that would fund the government, but only if the implementation of the new health-care law was delayed. The government shut down; the law went forward.
Even before the vote, GOP House members had not had such great luck lately in making the leap to the Senate.
Last year, five of them ran, and only one — Jeff Flake of Arizona — succeeded. Two former GOP House members, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, also sought Senate seats in 2012 and lost.
By comparison, House Democrats were winners in four of the five Senate races in which they competed.
To regain a majority for the first time since 2007, Republicans would have to win six Senate seats — a big lift — but the electoral map gives them some advantages. Of the 35 states where Senate elections will be held, Democrats will be defending seats in 20, including in seven conservative states that were won by GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Of the 15 states where the Republicans are defending seats, Obama won only two, Maine and New Jersey. (New Jersey is in GOP hands because longtime Democratic incumbent Frank R. Lautenberg died in office, giving Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, the opportunity to name a temporary replacement.)