Candidates in key states attract eager GOP stars
Friends in need, friends indeed
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.
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.
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.
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.