Senator Mitt Romney? That’s the headline over at The Atlantic this afternoon, as McKay Coppins reports:
According to six sources familiar with the situation, Romney has spent recent weeks actively discussing a potential 2018 Senate bid with a range of high-level Republicans in both Utah and Washington, and has privately signaled a growing interest in the idea. Romney, though, has made clear he would not pursue the seat without Hatch’s blessing.
Hatch, who has served in the Senate for more than four decades, seemed to signal a willingness to step aside during an interview last week with National Journal’s Alex Rogers. “If I could get a really outstanding person to run for my position, I might very well consider [retiring],” Hatch said, adding, “Mitt Romney would be perfect.”
The only person standing in his way, as Coppins emphasizes, is current Senator Hatch. Hatch has served since 1977, making him the most senior Republican in the chamber and the second-most senior member overall, right behind Democrat Pat Leahy (who has served since 1975). Rumors had been circling of his retirement, and, as Coppins explores, that triggered the interest of former Governor Jon Huntsman. Mr. Huntsman has since been selected as Ambassador to Russia, so it’s back to either Orrin or, if Coppins’ sources are correct, the 2012 Republican Presidential candidate and former Governor of Massachusetts.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp faces an electorate that voted two-to-one for President Trump. Even with his current lackluster approval ratings, she will still face a lot of Trump supporters next cycle, and has been actively fundraising in advance of that battle. Her efforts have paid off: as POLITICO reports, her campaign has raised $1.6 million in the first quarter of 2017. This sets the record for any North Dakota Senator or senatorial candidate at this point in the election cycle. Heitkamp voted to end cloture on Neil Gorsuch this afternoon and has voted for a majority of President Trump’s Cabinet picks, reflecting the Republican nature of her state.
Senator Claire McCaskill is, in my opinion, the most endangered Democratic incumbent next year. After deliberately messing with the Republican primary in 2012, she managed to run against arguably the worst nominee of the cycle, Todd Akin, winning easily in a state that voted for Romney by almost ten points. She won’t be able to pull that trick off twice, so she is hoping that the Republicans will somehow screw things up on their own. Killing a bit of that dream is Representative Ann Wagner, whose current war chest dwarfs McCaskill’s. Wagner stepped down as the finance chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday, further cementing the notion she is indeed going to launch a challenge against McCaskill.