Russ Feingold Announces Senate Bid

Russ Feingold Announces Senate Bid

By Alexis Levinson, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold announced Thursday he will run for his old Wisconsin seat.

“Today, I’m pleased to announce that I’m planning to run for the United States Senate in 2016,” Feingold said in an announcement video posted Thursday morning.

Feingold, a three-term senator, was ousted in the 2010 Republican wave by now-Sen. Ron Johnson.

His announcement that he will run to reclaim his old seat comes as no surprise — he has hinted at his plans and Wisconsin Democrats have long said they expected him to run.

Feingold immediately earned the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“Russ Feingold has been a tenacious champion for the people of Wisconsin throughout his career and we’re thrilled to announce our support for his campaign,” said DSCC Chairman Jon Tester in a statement.

No other Democrat is expected to run for the seat.

Johnson, a wealthy businessman who self-funded his campaign in 2010, is one of the most vulnerable incumbents facing re-election in 2016. He did minimal fundraising in the first four years of his term, something he acknowledged, though he picked up the pace in the first quarter this year, pulling in $1.3 million. He has said he has no plans to self-fund this cycle.

Feingold’s signature issue in the Senate was campaign finance reform, and in his 2010 campaign he eschewed super PAC money. But super PACs have become ubiquitous in campaigns, and though Feingold criticized the fact that “multimillionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling all the shots” in Congress in his announcement video, Wisconsin Democrats expect him to accept super PAC money this time to ensure an even playing field.

Since he left the Senate, Feingold most recently served as U.S. special envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He resigned from the post earlier this year.

The race is rated a “Tossup” by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Watch his announcement video below:

(c)2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: JD Lasica via Flickr

Moving Parts Complicate Democratic Challenge To McCain

Moving Parts Complicate Democratic Challenge To McCain

By Alexis Levinson, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

Arizona Sen. John McCain’s re-election campaign announcement Tuesday was just one of a handful of moving parts that will determine whether Democrats can make this race competitive.

Democrats trying to game out the Senate race are facing a dizzying number of variables: a pending Supreme Court decision that could result in the redrawing of congressional district lines, the potential for a nasty Republican primary, whether Hillary Rodham Clinton will make a play for Arizona in the presidential race, and whether Democratic outside groups would devote resources to a state where the party hasn’t won a Senate seat since 1988.

There are a few candidates Democrats believe would be strong contenders, but convincing them to run in this Republican-leaning state may be difficult unless the dominoes fall a certain way.

“The problem Democrats have in our state right now is it’s just so hard to win a statewide election,” Democratic consultant Barry Dill said.

Beyond the state’s inherent challenges for Democrats, McCain, 78, reportedly has a $3.5 million war chest as of March 31, and he’s made clear in recent interviews that he’s taking his re-election seriously, even if a primary looks for now like the bigger threat.

“The people that lose — and we’ve seen some of them particularly in 2010 and 2012 — were people who took their re-election for granted,” the senator said Wednesday morning on KSAZ-TV, a Fox affiliate in Phoenix. “They figured that because they’d been there that they deserved to be re-elected. We don’t deserve anything unless we earn it. Every time, it’s a new examination by the voters, it’s a new decision-making process.”

Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Ann Kirkpatrick are the two Arizona Democrats mentioned the most as possible challengers. Both have proven crossover appeal after winning swing districts in a tough year. Sinema, Democrats say, is ambitious and a strong fundraiser, while Kirkpatrick’s profile elevated after being re-elected in 2014 by a bigger margin than in 2012.

Neither one has openly expressed any interest in running for Senate. Sinema brushed off such questions in a recent conversation with CQ Roll Call, and her office did not respond to a request for comment. A source close to the Kirkpatrick campaign said they were watching the redistricting case closely to see what happened.

But in July, one or both may receive added incentive to run when the Supreme Court rules on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s independent redistricting commission. If the court rules the commission lacked the authority to draw the lines, the Republican-controlled legislature would be charged with reshaping the districts, which could prove detrimental to the political survival of Sinema or Kirkpatrick.

Arizona operatives believe Republicans would likely shore up the swing district held by Republican Rep. Martha McSally and try to shift more Republicans into Kirkpatrick’s 1st District and Sinema’s 9th District.

“If all of a sudden she’s found in a very likely competitive House situation — or where it’s not even competitive to her disadvantage — then the Senate may be something she would look at,” Dill said of both Democratic congresswomen.

Democrats could also recruit outside of the congressional delegation. One name mentioned was Nan Walden, a pecan farm executive who was recruited to challenge McCain in 2010 and has been floated in the past as a potential candidate in the 2nd District.

Also on the list is former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who lost the 2012 open-seat Senate race to Republican Jeff Flake.

But the pending redistricting decision makes it unlikely any of these people will enter the race before late summer or fall, about a year before the Aug. 30 primaries.

“We’re all sort of waiting to see what the playing field actually looks like,” said one Arizona Democrat.

A delayed entrance to the race only makes keeping up with McCain on fundraising a greater challenge, even if the incumbent faces a competitive primary. In addition to his already plentiful campaign funds, as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he will have a lot of friends when it comes time to fundraise.

Sinema had $303,000 in cash on hand at the start of the year. She raised $3.7 million in the 2014 cycle. Kirkpatrick finished the year with $88,000 after a grueling re-election in which she raised $3.4 million.

“For us to make the jump and to win a big statewide race, it’s gonna take serious investment from the DSCC. … It’s a lot about the investment of outside groups and the national committees,” said the Arizona Democrat.

While Democrats continue to insist demographic changes are putting states like Arizona and Georgia in play, electoral history continues to haunt them there. The last time a Democrat won an Arizona Senate seat was 1988, when Sen. Dennis DeConcini won a third term. Carmona, who ran in a good Democratic year, lost the open seat by 4 points.

Of course, Democrats still hope they might not have to deal with McCain at all. The senator is unpopular with the more conservative quarters of his party, and he will likely get a primary challenge. State Sen. Kelli Ward has indicated interest in a bid, though she would have an uphill climb to unseat McCain, and Republican Rep. Matt Salmon is also likely to consider it.

(c)2015 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Zach Frailey via Flickr

Bill Clinton Endorses Strickland In Ohio

Bill Clinton Endorses Strickland In Ohio

By Alexis Levinson, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Former President Bill Clinton made his first endorsement of the 2016 cycle Tuesday, backing former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland in his bid for Senate.

Strickland is the front-runner for the nomination to challenge Republican Senator Rob Portman. One other Democrat is also running — Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.

“Ted Strickland offers a unique blend of qualities we need more of in Washington today: a proven record of service to hard-working Ohioans, energy, determination, and idealism,” Clinton said in a statement. “He knows how to reach across the aisle to find common ground and when Ohioans need him to stand his ground. No one will care more, know more, and work harder for better opportunities for every Ohioan than Ted. I’m proud to support him.”

Strickland has a long relationship with the Clintons dating back to his time as a member of the House during Clinton’s presidency. In 2008, as governor of the pivotal swing state, he was a major backer of then-Senator Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. In 2010, Bill Clinton backed Strickland’s unsuccessful bid for another term as governor.

Now, as the former secretary of state prepares to mount another bid for the presidency, that relationship could be valuable again. Last week, Strickland told reporters that a Clinton confidante had told him that she wanted to be on the ballot with him in Ohio.

The endorsement also could be aimed at convincing Sittenfeld to exit the primary. The city councilman was the first Democrat to jump in against Portman, but most Ohio Democrats expected he would bow out when Strickland announced his candidacy. He has not, and Strickland allies are increasingly irked by that fact, in spite of Strickland’s frontrunner status. Ohio is a crucial swing state, and Strickland’s potential to help the Democratic presidential nominee could be a strong argument for his candidacy.

The race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Photo: beru8ra via Flickr

Secretary Of Labor Perez Rules Out Maryland Senate Run

Secretary Of Labor Perez Rules Out Maryland Senate Run

By Alexis Levinson, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

CHESAPEAKE BEACH, Md. — Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez will not run for Senate in Maryland, he told CQ-Roll Call Thursday.

Several Maryland Democrats have mentioned Perez, a Maryland resident who held public office there, as a possible Senate candidate following Senator Barbara A Mikulski’s recent announcement that she would not seek another term.

But Perez, who was the keynote speaker for the Calvert County Democratic Central Committee’s Louis L. Goldstein Dinner, said he has no interest.

“No,” he scoffed when CQ-Roll Call asked if he was thinking about a bid. “Isn’t there enough people running for the Senate?”

Two Maryland Democrats have already announced their candidacies for the Senate seat: Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Donna Edwards. Edwards was also at the dinner and delivered brief remarks.

The primary for the safe Democratic seat is likely to be crowded. A number of other people, including several members of Congress and current and former state officials, are also considering running.

Photo: U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez addresses the AFL-CIO Convention, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 in Los Angeles. (US Department of Labor/Flickr)

Chris Van Hollen To Run For Senate In Maryland

Chris Van Hollen To Run For Senate In Maryland

By Alexis Levinson, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen announced Wednesday he will run for the seat of retiring Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, moving swiftly as numerous other ambitious Democrats have their eye on the race.

“I am excited to share that I have decided to run for the United States Senate from our great State of Maryland,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

The seven-term congressman’s move comes just two days after Mikulski announced she wouldn’t seek another term and with nearly every other member of Maryland’s congressional delegation pondering whether to run for just the second open Senate seat in the last 30 years.

Rep. Donna Edwards told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday she is seriously considering a bid and would make a decision soon.

“I’ve made quite clear that I’m interested in running,” she said. “I see a pathway to succeeding Barbara Mikulski.”

As for a timeline, Edwards said, “give me a couple of days or so, and I’ll figure it all out.” Van Hollen confirmed his candidacy just a couple of hours later, but Edwards made clear she had no compunction about running against her colleagues.

“Was it a factor to me when I ran for Congress against a seven-term incumbent and every bit of the establishment was against me? Not really,” she said, referring to her first election to Congress when she ousted fellow Democrat Al Wynn.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who is also considering a bid, greeted reporters’ questions Wednesday with a hearty laugh. He confirmed as he walked away, “That’s not a no.”

Other members of the delegation are also reportedly considering it. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger told Bloomberg he was giving the possibility of running “very serious consideration,” and Rep. John Delaney tweeted Monday that he “will explore a race for Senate.”

Rep. John Sarbanes is also considered a possible contender. He is the son of longtime former Sen. Paul Sarbanes.

Photo: Edward Kimmel via Flickr

Ted Strickland Announces Senate Run In Ohio

Ted Strickland Announces Senate Run In Ohio

By Alexis Levinson, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, announced Wednesday morning he will challenge Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in 2016.

“I’m running for the United States Senate in 2016 because I am determined to restore the American Dream for working people in this country,” Strickland said in a statement emailed to reporters.

Democrats need to gain five seats in 2016 to secure a majority, and in a presidential year, that path could run through Ohio.

This Senate race will not be an easy one for Democrats. Portman is a strong fundraiser: He started 2015 with a $5.8 million war chest and will likely add to that sum after the March 31 deadline. The senator began building his campaign team late last month, hiring a campaign manager, a political director, and a fundraiser.

But Strickland will likely be a formidable challenger. A fixture in Ohio politics, he served as governor from 2006 to 2010 following six non-consecutive House terms.

One Democrat is already in the Senate race: Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld launched a campaign a month ago. Many Ohio Democrats expect he will exit the race in the near future now that Strickland is officially running.

In his statement announcing his bid, Strickland mentioned neither Portman nor Sittenfeld.

In a presidential year, when Ohio’s 18 electoral votes are the ultimate prize, the Buckeye State Senate race will likely see a fair bit of action. Strickland is close to former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a likely presidential candidate in 2016.

The race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call.

Photo: Dana Beveridge via Flickr

Republicans Fear 2010 Redux In Nevada Senate Race

Republicans Fear 2010 Redux In Nevada Senate Race

By Alexis Levinson, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Nevada Republicans worry their efforts to oust Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid in 2016 could be thwarted again by a crowded GOP primary.

In 2010, Republicans nominated one of their weakest candidates in the primary, Sharron Angle, from a large field of challengers to face Reid. In a banner year for the GOP across the country, Reid won re-election by a handful of points — and now Republicans are anxious history could repeat itself in 2016.

“We just need to take control of our primaries and make sure that doesn’t happen this time,” Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) recently told CQ Roll Call in the Capitol. “Yeah, I’m always concerned with that.”

Heller’s House colleagues echoed that sentiment.

“Always concerned with that situation,” said freshman Rep. Crescent Hardy (R-NV). “We sometimes are our own worst enemy.”

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV) was one of those many candidates who wanted to challenge Reid in 2010, but he dropped out after six months. He later sought election to the House.

“I mean, just based on the most recent experience, it didn’t have a positive result if you’re looking for a Republican in the seat,” said Amodei recently outside the House floor.

Reid tops the GOP’s target list for 2016, when the party has little opportunity to play offense because most of the incumbents up for re-election are Republicans. Democrats must win a net of five Senate seats to ensure control of the chamber this cycle.

The GOP’s top choice for the seat is Governor Brian Sandoval. Republicans believe the popular Latino pol could easily defeat Reid.

“He certainly would be our A plus candidate,” said Heller, a vice chairman of the NRSC.

Here’s the problem: Nevada Republicans don’t believe he is going to run.

“I certainly don’t speak for the governor, but if you said, ‘Well, is he gonna run or not?’ my opinion would be no, he’s not,” said Amodei. “I think he likes being governor. I think he wants to finish that.”

Several other Republicans interviewed by CQ Roll Call agreed with Amodei. But without Sandoval in the race, the primary floodgates would open.

“I think a lot of people feel like they can beat Harry Reid,” said Nevada Republican consultant Robert Uithoven. “They want to be the one to topple Harry Reid.”

Nevada Republicans mentioned a number of names: Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison, former state Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, and former Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who has said he is open to a run. The only candidate who has announced a bid so far is Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers.

The state’s three Republican congressmen have ruled out running in interviews with CQ Roll Call. But any one of them could change their minds. Just ask Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), who ruled out a Senate bid for months before jumping into the race _ and winning.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Andrea Bozek said Republicans “are going to do to Harry Reid what Democrats tried to do to Sen. McConnell. The difference is we are going to win and send Harry Reid into retirement.”

Some Nevada operative speculated the NRSC could convince one of the congressman to have similar change of heart if Sandoval opts to stay out. The most likely target is Heck, a strong fundraiser who boasts a geographical advantage living in the populous southern part of the state.

But few Republicans believe anyone can clear the field except Sandoval. And without a prohibitive favorite, the field could grow.

“If there’s not somebody that’s seen as potentially someone who can gather a lot of the support behind him, that probably augurs in favor of a lot of people going, ‘Well heck. I think I’ve got a shot,'” Amodei said.

Heller said he supported the opportunity for anyone who wanted to run to do so, but he did not rule out endorsing in a multi-candidate primary.

“That doesn’t mean that myself, the governor and others may have a preferred candidate and that we wouldn’t get involved,” Heller said.

The field probably won’t form before June, when the legislative session ends. Sandoval proposed a tax increase – the largest in Nevada’s history – to pay for education reform. That proposal has raised some eyebrows in Sandoval’s own party, and the subsequent debate, plus the legislature’s other business, will keep Sandoval, Roberson, and Hutchison occupied for the next few months.

Some Nevada Republicans remain unconvinced Reid will actually run for a sixth term. Reid has said repeatedly that he intends to run, which his office confirmed again Tuesday to CQ Roll Call.

But some operatives remain skeptical. Reid began the year with just $1.5 million cash on hand, less than half of the amount he had in the bank at the start of the 2010 cycle. The Senate minority leader’s bandaged face serves as a visible reminder of outside factors that could change his mind.

If that happened, Democratic operatives mentioned Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, or former Secretary of State Ross Miller as top recruits.

For now, Republican operatives are recruiting candidates to face Reid and his vaunted state campaign operation.
Asked if Democrats might try to play a role in deciding the winner of a Republican primary, as they did in 2010, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director Justin Barasky did not rule it out.

“I know Reid’s team and the DSCC will do whatever it takes to ensure he’s re-elected, and that means keeping your options open,” he told CQ Roll Call.

AFP Photo/Alex Wong

How Republicans Could Risk A Senate Seat To Win The White House

How Republicans Could Risk A Senate Seat To Win The White House

By Alexis Levinson, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Republicans might face a major dilemma next year: Will they sacrifice a Senate seat to pick a prime candidate for vice president?

GOP operatives have often mentioned Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio and Marco Rubio of Florida, as potential running mates for the eventual GOP nominee in 2016. Here’s the problem: The trio is up for re-election in competitive states in 2016. If one of them is selected for the No. 2 spot, Republicans would risk losing the Senate seat — and possibly, control of that chamber.

“Senator Ayotte and Senator Portman and Senator Rubio are great senators who are highly regarded, respected and very supported by their voters at home,” former National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran (R-KS) told CQ Roll Call last week. “It would be unlikely for the presidential candidate to choose someone, a Republican senator, if that senator was going to be replaced by a Democrat.”

After staggering losses last November, Democrats need a net gain of five seats in 2016 to reclaim a Senate majority — and New Hampshire, Ohio and Florida are high on the party’s target list of seats. President Barack Obama won all three states in 2012 and 2008.

Portman was on the short list to be Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. His friendship with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is exploring a presidential bid, means he could find himself in a similar spot in 2016.

This possibility has made the Buckeye State’s Senate race more alluring to Democrats. Cincinnati City Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld has already entered the race, and at least two more Democrats — former Gov. Ted Strickland and Rep. Tim Ryan — are considering bids.

“There’s a decent chance, I mean a really decent chance, that Portman won’t be running for the Senate,” Steve Fought, a Democratic operative from Ohio, said last month about the race.

There’s a similar situation in the New Hampshire and Florida Senate races. If Ayotte were nominated for vice president, she could be absent from her home state for the final few months of the election while she campaigned across the country for the national ticket.

In Rubio’s case, Florida law currently prohibits him from being on both tickets at once, so he would have to end his re-election bid for Senate to accept the nomination. State lawmakers could try to change that law — much like Sen. Rand Paul’s allies in the Kentucky Legislature, who are trying to ensure he can seek re-election and the presidency at the same time.

But Rubio, who is deciding between running for president or seeking re-election, alluded to the all-consuming nature of running on a national ticket at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor last month.

“My intention if I run for president is to run for president,” he told reporters. “If I decide to make that decision, it will not be with the intention of looking for a plan B if it doesn’t work out.”

Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson, both Florida Democrats, have expressed interest in running for Rubio’s seat.

If Rubio dropped out of the Senate race to accept the nomination, Republicans would be in a tight spot. Presidential nominees often pick their running mates later in the summer, but the 2016 nominees will likely make their selections before the conventions in June or July. Even under that timeline, it would be difficult for any new Senate candidates to campaign and raise money for a statewide race in a competitive state.

And in New Hampshire, Republicans could be in a problematic position even if Ayotte simultaneously won on the national ticket and her Senate race. In that case, she would have to resign her Senate seat, and the governor would appoint a replacement to serve until the next general election two years later.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is a Democrat, and if she, or another Democrat, wins the governor’s race in 2016, the appointed replacement would almost certainly be a Democrat. It could even be Hassan, who is considering challenging Ayotte.

All of this could put a damper on Ayotte’s chances of becoming the Republican vice-presidential pick. What’s more, the Granite State Republican, 46, might have other opportunities in future cycles to run nationwide. Rubio, 43, and Portman, 59, have plenty of time too.

Also, the GOP nominee for president has no shortage of options outside the Senate, including several governors.

For their parts, aides for Rubio and Portman declined to comment for this story, though the Ohio Republican has said he’s not interested in the vice presidency. A spokesperson for Ayotte told CQ Roll Call she was focused on serving in the Senate.

“We’re not making any assumptions,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) told CQ Roll Call last week, in response to a question about recruitment for these three races.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) brushed off a question on the topic saying only of Rubio, Portman and Ayotte, “I think the fact that they’re so talented is a plus.”

Currently, all three senators are favored to hold their seats. The Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report rates the New Hampshire and Ohio Senate races Leans Republican, and the Florida Senate race is rated Tilts Republican.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

North Carolina Campaigns Prepare For Potential Recount

North Carolina Campaigns Prepare For Potential Recount

By Alexis Levinson, CQ Roll Call (MCT)

The competitive North Carolina Senate race will cost more than $100 million by Election Day, and that price tag could climb further as both parties prepare to spend even more if the race becomes too close to call.

The campaigns for both Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Republican state Speaker Thom Tillis confirmed to CQ Roll Call they are making preparations in case of a recount in one of the country’s most competitive races. Recent polls show a tied race, and this week the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call moved the race to Tossup from Tilts Democratic.

“It’d be kind of silly for us not to (prepare),” said Todd Poole, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

A recount occurs in the Tar Heel State if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent of the total votes cast, or 10,000 votes, whichever is less. That is something political observers say could easily happen.

“We put a field program in place early knowing this is going to be a close election, that involves a voter protection and an election protection piece,” said Hagan campaign communications director Sadie Weiner.

A North Carolina Democrat confirmed that includes a recount.

“We’re preparing for all potential outcomes,” including a possible recount, said Tillis spokesman Daniel Keylin.

Republicans need to gain six seats to take the Senate majority, and that path cuts through several states — including, most likely, North Carolina. Republican Joni Ernst’s campaign in Iowa is also reportedly pursuing information about a recount.

Photo: U.S. Senator Kay Hagan addresses a welcoming crowd and young campaign supporters at her campaign field office September 19, 2014 in Chapel Hill, N.C. Hagan was in Chapel Hill to rally her staffers and supporters from Orange and Durham counties to get out the vote against her opponent, NC House Speaker Thom Tillis in this November’s election. (Harry Lynch/News & Observer/MCT)


Senate Races 2014: Why Michigan Never Became Iowa

Senate Races 2014: Why Michigan Never Became Iowa

By Alexis Levinson, CQ Roll Call (MCT)

WASHINGTON — Earlier this cycle, Republicans viewed the Michigan Senate race as a potential pick-up opportunity, much like the seat in Iowa.

But it didn’t turn out that way — not even close.

Both Iowa and Michigan featured open-seat races. In these states, Democrats had cleared the field to nominate a House member with partisan voting records. Meanwhile, the GOP’s top candidate picks took a pass on these Senate races, forcing the party to settle for second-tier recruits. To be sure, Michigan was a slightly more favorable battleground for Democrats — but Republicans were bullish about it.

Now, with two weeks until Election Day, the Iowa race is a dead heat with both parties spending massively to win the seat. Nearly 500 miles away, Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI) solidly leads former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in every public poll. Earlier this month, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled more than $850,000 out of the state, canceling its final two weeks of television for Land and indicating the race was over.

“I’d rather be on Gary Peters’ campaign than on Terri Lynn Land’s,” said Michigan Republican consultant Dennis Darnoi.

So what happened?

The Iowa race had distinct events that changed the trajectory of the race: a television ad about castrating hogs that propelled Republican Joni Ernst to an overwhelming primary win; a video showing Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) denigrating Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) as “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.”

By contrast, the Michigan race has been “sort of boring,” in the words of state Democratic consultant Mark Grebner.

There has been no game-changing remark. There were no debates (the two campaigns could not agree on a format), so there was “no zinger moment,” said Darnoi. Republicans were never able to get off a clean, clear hit on Peters the way they did on Braley.

In Michigan, Republicans have attacked Peters on immigration, health care and for owning stock in a company that produces petroleum coke, or petcoke — a gross manufacturing byproduct the congressman has condemned. The Land campaign maintains this is an example of Peters’ hypocrisy. But political observers said they discern no single, clear line of attack with which to define the opposition — on either side of the aisle.

“The messages have been all over the place,” said Michigan GOP consultant Dan Pero.

“Our message is simple: You can’t believe anything Gary Peters says,” Land campaign spokeswoman Heather Swift pushed back. “He says he supports women, meanwhile he pays women in his office 67 cents on the dollar. He says he’s against petcoke, meanwhile he owns petcoke stock. He marched with Occupy Wall Street, meanwhile he was a Wall Street broker. The guy will say literally anything to get elected. You always know where Terri Lynn Land stands — she has a record of putting Michigan first. She’s made government work before, she’ll do it again.”

But unlike Ernst, Land never had a breakout moment like the “castrating hogs” spot. Her most memorable ad tried to rebut “war on women” attacks by pointing out that she is a woman. For about 11 seconds of the ad, she sat there drinking coffee, looking at her watch, and not saying anything. It was widely panned.

Instead, Land’s most memorable moment on the campaign trail was in May, when she burst out in a scrum of reporters, “I can’t do this. I talk with my hands,” as they asked her questions. Since then, story after story has portrayed Land as hiding from the media, with national reporters traveling to Michigan to find unannounced campaign events.

Darnoi pointed out Republicans had not been sold on Land’s candidacy since the beginning. Like Ernst, Land was not the top choice: There were early efforts to recruit Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) to run. He passed.

Meanwhile, Ernst exceeded expectations as a candidate, proving one of the best retail politicians this cycle.

What’s more, Peters had experience with tough races. In 2002, he lost a bid for state attorney general by 5,200 votes. In 2008, he challenged an established Republican and won handily. In 2010, Peters fought a Republican wave but survived by fewer than three points — becoming just one of a few Democrats in competitive districts who voted for President Barack Obama’s health care law.

In 2012, Republicans targeted Peters when they redrew the state’s congressional map, effectively eliminating his district. He took on another member in strong Democratic, majority-minority district and won by a double-digit margin.

Compare that to Braley: Since he won his first term in 2006, he’s had relatively easy re-election challenges with one exception. In 2010, he won re-election by a couple points.

Of course, Michigan and Iowa are different states politically. Both states have GOP governors, but Michigan is more favorable statewide for Democrats. Obama won Michigan by ten points in 2012; he won Iowa by six.

Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of that difference comes next week, when Obama will campaign for Peters. First lady Michelle Obama has campaigned for Braley instead.

Regardless, it’s hard to see how Land recovers in the final weeks.

Public polling heavily favors the Democrat. A Detroit News poll from early October found Peters ahead by nine points, 44 percent to 35 percent. It follows a string of polls that found him leading Land anywhere from five to 11 points. Since April, Land has led in only two polls — one in July and one in late August.

Still, Republicans argue the race is not over in Michigan.

Even with the NRSC no longer spending there, there is a huge amount of money flowing into the state to help Land. Much of it is coming from Ending Spending Action Fund, which, as of Tuesday, had spent $4.8 million to boost Land and attack Peters since the beginning of August. A source tracking media buys says the group has not reserved air time for the final week.

“Land is down, but I think that race is going to close,” said NRSC executive director Rob Collins.

The Republican ground game had reached 3.5 million voters as of Monday, said Michigan GOP spokesman Darren Littell.

“I think that’s premature in a state like Michigan, and particularly if you look at the national environment,” said GOP consultant Stu Standler.

The Michigan race is rated Favored Democratic by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Screenshot: YouTube