Indiana’s Young launches campaign arm bid
Indiana Sen. Todd Young officially launched his bid to lead Senate Republicans’ campaign arm on Thursday, a job that comes with a difficult Senate map and the balancing act of running alongside Donald Trump’s presidential reelection campaign.
The first-term Republican said he’s “prepared” for a race against a GOP colleague, though for now he does not have any competition. Should he win, Young’s job will be more difficult than his predecessor, Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). Senate Republicans will be back on defense for the next two years, though mostly in states that Trump won in 2016.
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“I acknowledge that we have a lot seats up, 22 seats, but the good news is that 20 of them are in states that Donald Trump won. The challenge is that two of them are in states that he didn’t win,” Young said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “But I think we have a couple of pick-up opportunities and most importantly we have good candidates.”
After Republicans knocked off as many as four Democratic incumbents this week pending Florida’s recount, Young said that the Senate GOP should be prepared to run again alongside Trump with a focus on the economy. The president successfully campaigned against Young’s Democratic Indiana colleague, Joe Donnelly, as well as Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), in the final days of the election, though the president concentrated far more on cultural issues than the economy in the election’s waning days.
“We can fairly call the agenda we’ve been advancing the Trump agenda. It’s also the Senate Republican agenda. It’s led to the lowest rate of unemployment since the late ‘60s, rising wages, higher consumer optimism,” Young said. “All of these are things that our candidates will be running on.”
Chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee or its Democratic counterpart is typically a key stepping stone for ambitious pols. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer led their party’s committees, as did other members of their leadership teams. But it comes with challenges: Campaigning against your colleagues, raising lots of money and driving a strong media message. Young has typically shied away from doing tons of press in his first two years in Washington.
Young is a Marine veteran, and his colleagues say his military upbringing will translate well to the grind of the NRSC.
“We’re going to need him. The map isn’t as favorable,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who is up for reelection himself. “He’s very mission oriented. He’s determined, tenacious. That job is relentless in terms of how much time it takes in effort.”
Some on K Street are hoping that Mitt Romney runs for the job of chairing the NRSC. Young said he talked to Romney after he won the Utah Senate seat on Tuesday, though they did not discuss the NRSC.
Unless Romney mounts a surprise challenge, Young appears to be the favorite even if he gets an opponent. He said he’s received encouragement from McConnell and Gardner for the post and spoke to former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) about how to work with colleagues while also plotting to oust them. Young will have less of a problem than Gardner given the paucity of GOP pickup opportunities in 2020, though the GOP will vigorously contest Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.
“I don’t think there’s any tension between being an effective NRSC chairman and being a conscientious and dignified United States senator,” Young said. Lugar “told me to not even hesitate. It’s something he’s very proud of having done.”
Some Democrats have been trying to recruit Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) to chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. She would be the second woman to run the DSCC; Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) chaired it twice.
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