For the DSCC and NRSC, things really have not changed.
Over the past two cycles, Democrats enjoyed a seemingly unending series of good news, while Republicans accumulated unwelcome retirements and recruitment failures. That pattern has held for the first few months of the 2010 cycle, and this was obvious today: A few hours after Democrats got one of their brightest prospects to run in Kentucky, Colorado Republicans lost two of their top contenders.
Colorado’s Senate seat is one of the most important of 2010. Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, who was appointed last month, has never held elected office - and it is always dangerous for someone who has never had to seriously campaign to be suddenly thrust in the limelight. Furthermore, Republicans often relish the opportunity to run against Democrats like Bennet who are based in Denver.
Yet, a series of electoral defeats has left Republicans with a small bench, so it remains unclear whether the GOP will be able to mount a credible challenge against Bennet.
The GOP was looking most insistently towards Attorney General John Suthers, the only Republican to currently hold statewide office. Suthers was widely expected to jump in the race after Bennet’s appointment seemingly guaranteed that he would have a shot - so expected that fellow Republican and former U.S. Attorney Troy Eid had already announced a run for Attorney General.
Yet, Suthers told the Denver Post today that he would run for re-election in 2010, ruling out a gubernatorial run or a senatorial run. He added:
I realize the decision I’ve made will be disappointing to many Republicans and friends and acquaintances of mine that wanted me to run for governor or for the U.S. Senate in 2010, and that it may be disappointing to many Democrats who thought I’d be easy prey if I did.
Former Rep. Scott McInnis was a second candidate that got Republicans hopeful; in fact, McInnis had acknowledged his interest in the Senate seat. Yet, McInnis also just ruled out a Senate run - though he added (unlike Suthers) that he was mulling a challenge to Governor Ritter.
With Suthers and McInnis out of the Senate picture, the Republican field is reduced to a list of former officials and also-rans: former Governor Bill Owens, former Rep. Bob Beauprez, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, former football star John Elway, and former U.S. Attorney Troy Eid. (Eid announced he was withdrawing from the AG race and considering a Senate run as soon as Suthers got back in the former.)
Unfortunately for the GOP, it is difficult to see why Owens would run against an incumbent in 2010 when he refused to run for an open seat in 2008; Beauprez suffered a huge defeat in the open gubernatorial race in 2006; most analyts doubt Tancredo can be elected statewide; and it’s hard for the GOP to hope to capitalize on Bennet’s main weakness (his lack of elected offices and the consequent risk that he makes gaffes) if they run Eid or Elway.
Thus, Suthers’s and McInnis’s withdrawals are tough blows for the NRSC, and they confirm that Bennet is the safest of the three appointed Senators who reportedly intend to seek re-election in 2010. (Burris and Gillibrand are the two other ones; Delaware’s Kaufman has said he will retire.)
More generally, Suthers’s and McInnis’s decisions suggest that Republican officials are still so apprehensive about the political environment that they are not willing to take risks that could jeopardize their careers. (And who could blame them, given all the GOPers who lost in 2006 and in 2008?) This also explains why s many Republican Senators have already announced their retirement, and it will make it that much harder for the NRSC to recruit top candidates.