In the recruiting battle for 2012 Senate candidates, Republicans are winning by a landslide.
Just three months into the election cycle, the GOP has locked down heavyweight candidates in seven key Senate races, with top contenders seriously thinking about running in two others.
Democrats, on the other hand, are still without a major candidate in Massachusetts and Nevada — two states that present the best opportunities to pick up a seat. And there’s no official word yet on whether Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine will run in a third key race — the open Senate seat in Virginia.
Kaine is expected to run, providing a shot of adrenaline to party hopes of holding the seat left vacant when Jim Webb retires. But Kaine’s slow walk toward the race — and the heightened anticipation surrounding his decision — underscores the grimness of the 2012 Senate map for Democrats, who will have 23 seats up for election compared with just 10 for the GOP.
“Even the DNC chairman is struggling with whether to run. The fact that it’s difficult for even him to make a decision is a reflection of the environment out there,” said Jon Lerner, a strategist who has worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “The 2010 environment still exists out there in some fundamental levels. If you look at the state of the economy, the dissatisfaction with Washington and Congress, [the] direction of the country numbers, it’s still a very good environment for Republicans. So Republican candidates are willing to stick their neck out earlier.”
A senior Democratic operative with Senate campaign experience acknowledged that early candidate commitments on the Republican side are a product of the difficult landscape.
“They’re motivated. And all this goes back to what a tough cycle this is going to be. We’ve got the wind against us,” the strategist said, speaking on condition of anonymity. (Continues here)