Huffpost Politics

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Senate Guru Headshot

What's the GOP's 2010 Pitch to Potential Senate Candidates and Donors?

Posted: Updated:

A recent Roll Call piece highlights the top challenges for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) as both Parties begin preparing for the 2010 Senate elections.

At the dawn of the 2010 election cycle, opportunities abound for Senate Democrats to add to their 58-seat majority.

In Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania -- even in Kansas, where they have not won a Senate election since the 1930s -- a combination of open seats, shaky Republican incumbents, top-flight potential Democratic candidates, or changing political dynamics guarantees that Democrats will be on offense in several states for the third straight cycle.

Republicans, on the other hand, could face a depressing rerun of 2008, when they only went on offense in one state -- Louisiana -- and lost a minimum of seven seats (with the outcome of the Minnesota race still up in the air).

"You can't have a cycle like 2008, when you were only playing defense," fretted one GOP strategist.

Even the most optimistic Republicans concede that they have only one obvious pickup opportunity in 2010: in Nevada, where Sen. Harry Reid (D) will face the voters in his swing state for the first time since becoming Majority Leader and being closely associated with the national Democratic agenda.

But even there, the GOP is facing some difficulty. Republicans' preferred candidate, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, was indicted last week for allegedly mishandling state funds -- a prosecution that Krolicki and his allies insist is politically motivated.

The "most optimistic Republicans" (and, after the last two cycles, "optimistic" Republicans may be at a premium) only see one obvious pickup opportunity, and a very flawed opportunity at that. Sure, a tough map is a big obstacle for Republicans looking to rebound from horrendous 2006 and 2008 Senate race results, but the tough map might just be a contributory factor to a larger problem. Roll Call continues (emphasis added by me):

But where are the NRSC's top recruiting opportunities -- and what's the pitch to possible candidates when the GOP is so deeply in the minority?

What is the pitch to potential candidates? Commit 12 to 18 months of your life to an effort that may very well be in vain, where you beg your friends and colleagues for campaign cash, see your family less, sleep less, put yourself under intense media scrutiny, and basically surrender the routine of your life. And, if you actually win, you get to spend six years in a deep minority where you will accomplish little and where "success" is synonymous with "legislative obstruction."

Beyond the pitch to potential candidates, something that Roll Call doesn't touch on is: what's the pitch to potential Republican contributors? After giving thousands upon thousands of dollars to the NRSC and to Republican Senate candidates in 2006 and 2008, only to see Republicans lose the majority in '06 and approach an un-filibuster-able minority in '08 (and fail to shift a single Democratic seat into the Republican column), we want you to pour thousands more of your hard-earned dollars during a worse economy into our political activities for 2010, which features a Senate battleground that is arguably tougher for Republicans than both 2006 and 2008. Please, flush your money down the NRSC toilet.

Success begets success and failure begets failure. And the NRSC is in a downward spiral. The DSCC absolutely crushed the NRSC in fundraising during the 2008 cycle and was able to substantially support Democratic candidates, contributing significantly to the success of candidates like Oregon's Jeff Merkley and North Carolina's Kay Hagan. The NRSC simply can't offer Republican candidates that degree of support.

For instance, it's not unreasonable to suggest that Republicans' only prayer for competitive races against North Dakota's Senator Byron Dorgan and Hawaii's Senator Daniel Inouye are both states' Republican Governors, John Hoeven and Linda Lingle, respectively. But how will the NRSC pursuade them to spend half their lives on airplanes between their home states and Washington D.C., accomplishing little along the way, missing their families and spending much less time in the states they serve?

Further, does new NRSC Chair John Cornyn have the salesmanship, creativity, tenacity, and all-around Schumerosity to turn around the Senate GOP's steep slide? I strongly doubt it.

For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.