This election season there is lots of talk about Obamacare, myriad White House scandals and the unpopularity of President Obama. And although the national mood matters it doesn’t trump the need for great candidates. Candidly, Republicans haven’t always focused as much attention as is necessary on candidate recruitment, and as a result winnable races got mire down by political missteps or bad sound bites.
“The last election taught us that candidates matter,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said in an interview. “We can’t simply take a hands-off approach and say it doesn’t matter to us.”
That method is on full display this year. Charles Babington writes for the Associated Press:
The Republican Party continues its disciplined march toward an impressive lineup of candidates this fall, when it hopes to wrest the Senate majority from Democrats and control both chambers of Congress during President Barack Obama’s final two years.
Tuesday’s primaries produced another batch of Senate nominees who seem about as promising as party leaders could have hope for. There’s still plenty of time for stumbles, of course. But so far, the GOP appears to be sidestepping the type of gaffe-prone and fiercely ideological candidates who blundered into excruciating losses in 2010 and 2012.
Fortunately, none of these candidates show any susceptibility to saying or doing something that would jeopardize their race. Instead, the GOP slate is chock full of seasoned candidates with great resumes and innovative visions for the future. Many of those top-tier candidates revealed their strength in Tuesday’s primaries, which went a long way to show that Republicans’ recruitment efforts will pay dividends in November.
In South Dakota former governor Mike Rounds handily won the primary and will be now be the hands-down favorite to pick up the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson. During his time as governor Rounds developed a record of promoting innovation, pursuing projects ranging from expanding university-based research to accelerating the development of alternative energy. Those long term investments paid off in tens of thousands more jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation despite a deep recession following the popping of the tech bubble. It’s that type of outside-the-box thinking that we need in the Senate, a place not known for its fleet-footedness on job-creating legislation.
In Montana, another right-leaning state with a retiring Democratic senator, Rep. Steve Daines could put the state in the GOP camp. Daines has done it all, earning a degree in chemical engineering, opening up international markets overseas for Proctor & Gamble, worked for the family construction business, and was VP of a tech startup that eventually became one of the largest commercial employers in the state. It’s a record of business-savvy and job creation that his Democrat opponent can’t match. It’s a record desperately needed in the nation’s capital.
And then there’s Joni Ernst who sailed to victory in the Iowa primary and will now go against Rep. Bruce Braley to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. Ernst is an unabashed farm girl—whose first ad boasted of her knowledge castrating hogs— in a state that prides itself on agriculture. But she’s also an accomplished politician with a record that includes helping to pass the largest tax cut in the history of the state and reducing the unemployment rate to one of the lowest in the nation. Her opponent is a trial attorney who has already been caught on tape making fun of Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley as a “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” We’ll see how receptive Iowa voters are to that message.
These three are not alone. They join an impressive list of GOP candidates in other states that already includes names like Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Rep. Corey Gardner in Colorado. It’s an amazing lineup of talent, experience and ideas that has the capacity to capture a majority in the Senate even if President Obama can somehow manage to change the national conversation. But given his recent performance that seems unlikely.