Can­di­dates in key states at­tract ea­ger GOP stars

Friends in need, friends in­deed

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

It had been years since Rep. Wal­ter B. Jones in­vited a ma­jor na­tional Repub­li­can fig­ure to visit his North Carolina dis­trict to cam­paign with him, but he broke that drought last month by wel­com­ing Sen. Rand Paul of Ken­tucky.

It was part of an ef­fort for Mr. Jones, who has es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion as some­what of a mav­er­ick in the party, to re­cover from po­lit­i­cal wounds and raise money after turn­ing back a fierce chal­lenge from an es­tab­lish­ment­backed Repub­li­can pri­mary ri­val.

Across the coun­try, Repub­li­can can­di­dates have their picks of high-pro­file stars from the large field of po­ten­tial 2016 pres­i­den­tial con­tenders who are ea­ger to lend their im­pri­maturs — in ex­change for help with their own White House am­bi­tions.

“Truth­fully, I am not very good at rais­ing money,” Mr. Jones told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “I just don’t like it. So, for me, if I can get a na­tional fig­ure like Rand Paul to come in to east­ern North Carolina, the ben­e­fit is twofold: It helps me with my re-elec­tion bid and, se­condly, I want Rand Paul to run for pres­i­dent.”

Mr. Paul is prov­ing to be popular as one of the se­na­tors con­tem­plat­ing pres­i­den­tial bids, but so are for­mer na­tional can­di­dates who have name recog­ni­tion beyond party ac­tivists. Mitt Rom­ney, the 2012 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, 2008 nom­i­nee John McCain and 2008 hope­ful Mike Huck­abee also are at the top of the list.

Much like the pres­i­den­tial race, how­ever, a star at­trac­tion in one part of the coun­try may not be much of a draw in another.

David John­son, a Ge­or­giabased Repub­li­can Party strate­gist, said Se­nate can­di­date David Per­due would get the big­gest boost from the likes of Govs. Rick Perry of Texas, Mike Pence of In­di­ana or Scott Walker of Wis­con­sin, or from Mr. Huck­abee, a for­mer Arkansas gov­er­nor.

Steve Duprey, a Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee mem­ber from New Hamp­shire, said Mr. Rom­ney — who says he is not plan­ning another run for pres­i­dent — re­mains the most pow­er­ful sur­ro­gate for Repub­li­can chal­lengers look­ing to knock off in­cum­bents, in part be­cause he in­stantly re­minds vot­ers of the choice they made in 2012.

“With­out ques­tion,

Mitt Rom­ney helps the most,” Mr. Duprey said. “Lots of vot­ers in New Hamp­shire wish now that they had voted for Mitt for pres­i­dent, and hav­ing him cam­paign here re­minds the vot­ers how our in­cum­bent se­na­tor, Jeanne Shaheen, votes with Pres­i­dent Obama over 99 per­cent of the time and our two con­gress­women, Carol SheaPorter and Ann Kuster, vote with Pres­i­dent Obama over 90 per­cent of the time.”

Ms. Shaheen, a Demo­crat, is run­ning against for­mer Sen. Scott Brown of Mas­sachusetts. Ms. Shea-Porter faces off against Frank Guinta, whom she de­feated in 2012 in the 1st Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, and Ms. Kuster is up against state Rep. Mar­ilinda Gar­cia in the Gran­ite State’s other U.S. House race.

Mr. Duprey said vis­its from Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Florida, Sen. Rob Port­man of Ohio and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey also would be help­ful. Mr. Ru­bio cam­paigned Tues­day with Mr. Brown and plans to re­turn to New Hamp­shire on be­half of Ms. Gar­cia.

Paul’s pop­u­lar­ity

The only can­di­date on both Mr. John­son’s list from Ge­or­gia and Mr. Duprey’s list from New Hamp­shire is Mr. Paul, a lib­er­tar­ian who is a popular re­quest from can­di­dates across the GOP ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum.

Mr. Paul’s trip to North Carolina in­cluded a cam­paign stop with U.S. Se­nate can­di­date Thom Til­lis, who is chal­leng­ing Demo­crat Kay R. Ha­gan. Mr. Paul cam­paigned for Mr. Til­lis’ tea party-backed op­po­nent in the Repub­li­can pri­mary, and his ap­pear­ance could help Mr. Til­lis with wary con­ser­va­tives.

A week be­fore cam­paign­ing with Mr. Paul, Mr. Til­lis, the speaker of the North Carolina House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, stumped with for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has be­come heav­ily in­volved in re­cent weeks. He even opened his fundrais­ing net­work in Florida to can­di­dates in tight races.

In Septem­ber, Mr. Bush held an event in Tampa that raised $750,000 for Repub­li­cans run­ning for Se­nate in Colorado, Iowa, Ore­gon, Arkansas and Alaska. Be­fore that, he held a Florida fundraiser for Se­nate can­di­dates in Vir­ginia, Michi­gan and Ken­tucky. He also trav­eled to Bos­ton to cam­paign with Mr. Brown.

Blasts from the past

Mr. Rom­ney, mean­while, has been fea­tured in sev­eral email blasts from Repub­li­can cam­paign com­mit­tees and has been a big at­trac­tion on the stump.

Last week, he cam­paigned in Ken­tucky with Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, who is a top tar­get of Democrats. Since last year, Mr. McCon­nell has re­ceived help from Mr. Paul, Mr. Huck­abee and Mr. Bush, as well as Mr. Port­man and Mr. Perry.

“Who says Iowa vot­ers are the first pri­mary au­di­ence?” one Repub­li­can strate­gist said of the vis­its. “Repub­li­can hope­fuls are check­ing another box ahead of the 2016 sea­son.”

Mr. Rom­ney also has recorded a tele­phone mes­sage to Kansas vot­ers on be­half of em­bat­tled Sen. Pat Roberts. Mr. Roberts also has had vis­its from Mr. Bush and Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is sched­uled to cam­paign with Mr. Roberts this week, and Mr. Paul has pen­ciled in a visit for later this month.

Matt Hickam, a Kansas-based Repub­li­can strate­gist, said Mr. Roberts is hav­ing trou­ble unit­ing the party in the wake of a hard-fought pri­mary race and can use all the help he can get as he faces a strong chal­lenge from in­de­pen­dent Greg Or­man.

“It is sort of all-hands-ondeck, and [Mr. Roberts] needs to show that he has the broad­est pool of support now that the gen­eral elec­tion is less than five weeks away,” Mr. Hickam said.

The Iowa draw

In Iowa, state Sen. Joni Ernst has drawn support for her U.S. Se­nate race from just about ev­ery sig­nif­i­cant Repub­li­can who is flirt­ing with a White House run, which can be at­trib­uted in part to her state’s role in kick­ing off the party nom­i­na­tion con­tests.

Mr. Cruz and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal re­cently swung through Iowa to support Ms. Ernst’s cam­paign. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wis­con­sin, the party’s 2012 vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, head­lined a fundraiser for Ms. Ernst.

“Any one of the 2016-ers is help­ful in dif­fer­ent ways with dif­fer­ent au­di­ences,” said Repub­li­can Party strate­gist Dave Kochel, an ad­viser to the Ernst cam­paign. “It de­pends on the part of the state they may want to be in and it de­pends on who they want their au­di­ence to be.

“It is kind of hard to do any sort of rank­ing, and frankly in a com­pet­i­tive elec­tion like this you want all the help you can get,” he said.

As for Mr. Jones, he said, he doesn’t ex­pect many more vis­its from na­tional fig­ures, in par­tic­u­lar House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, who cam­paigned with him years ago.

“I voted against John Boehner for speaker, so I don’t think he will come help me,” he quipped.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Rand Paul, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, greets New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can Scott Brown as he en­dorses him for U.S. Se­nate. Repub­li­can can­di­dates have their pick from the large field of po­ten­tial 2016 pres­i­den­tial con­tenders.

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