Iowa as a metaphor for what’s wrong with the GOP’s 2014 Senate chances

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

It’s easy to dislike Mark Jacobs (this guy, not this guy … okay, both.) Just in time for an open Senate seat to emerge in Iowa, the energy executive miraculously moved back home from Houston. And despite having donated thousands of dollars to Arlen Specter — five months after Specter became a Democrat! — Jacobs is predictably running as the man to implement “sound conservative principles to get things done.”

That Jacobs (thanks to his money) might actually be the one to emerge from the crowded field of Republican hopefuls, only to lose to Democrat Bruce Braley, tells you everything you need to know about why the 2014 cycle is off to a surprisingly depressing start.

Frankly, I’m stunned by how little we are talking about the Senate races (I know Syria is a huge deal, but this lack of interest predates the run-up to war). Considering past cycles have included exciting Senate candidates like Rubio, Paul, Lee, and Toomey (not to mention O’Donnell, Miller, Angle, et al.), it seems weird that the only candidate Republicans are mildly excited about this cycle seems to be Arkansas’ Tom Cotton.

This is especially disheartening, considering Republicans have a real chance to take back the Senate by ousting vulnerable Democrats (Pryor in Arkansas, Landrieu in Louisiana, et al.) — and by flipping some open seats (which are usually easier to pick off than ousting an incumbent).

Sadly, GOP infighting (to the extent there has been buzz, it has been mostly about “primarying” Mitch McConell or Mike Enzi — leaders who lack charisma, but are hardly in the Charlie Crist or Arlen Specter category), coupled with the lack of interest, means Republicans might miss yet another golden opportunity.

Almost as depressing is this: Even where Republicans have successfully recruited top-tier candidates, there is little for conservatives to be excited about. Take, for example, West Virginia. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is poised to win an open seat there, which certainly helps Republicans who want to take the majority. But there is little about her moderate record and temperament for anyone to get excited about. Again, this is a far cry from 2010.

Republicans need a six-seat swing to pick up the majority. This can happen, but they will need to get some luck, and also to nominate the right candidates. The stars will have to align. But — so far — the stars are mostly staying home.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referenced “Price in Arkansas.” (It has been corrected to read “Pryor in Arkansas.”)

Matt K. Lewis