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2014 candidates are off and running

West Virginia's Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito became the first major Senate challenger to declare her candidacy Monday.
/ Source: The Daily Rundown

West Virginia's Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito became the first major Senate challenger to declare her candidacy Monday.

The 113th Congress hasn’t even been seated, but who says it’s too early to talk 2014?

Not Republican West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who became the first major Senate challenger to declare her campaign today. Capito, daughter of former West Virginia Governor Arch Moore, passed on a Senate bid in 2010 and a run for governor in 2011. Her decision to take on Senator Jay Rockefeller this time around immediately puts his seat in play. In a hypothetical August matchup, Capito won 48% of the vote to Rockefeller’s 44%. The 75-year-old senator has not said whether he’ll run for a sixth term.

Twenty Democratic seats are up in 2014, and among them are a handful of GOP pickup opportunities in red states. Among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats: Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Max Baucus of Montana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Tim Johnsonof South Dakota. Republicans are defending just thirteen seats.

In South Dakota, former Governor Mike Rounds has already formed an exploratory committee to take on Johnson. Johnson, who suffered a brain aneurysm in 2006, has not said whether he’ll run for re-election.

When Pryor ran for Senate in Arkansas four years ago, the state’s congressional delegation was made up of five Democrats and one Republican. In January, Pryor will be the delegation’s sole Democrat and Republicans hope to replace him. Former Karl Rove protégé Congressman Tim Griffin and incoming freshman Rep. Tom Cotton, who won Mike Ross’s seat, were Pryor’s expected rivals.

In Alaska, Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell—who graduated from Yale University and Harvard Business School, and chaired the company that developed the camera used for Google’s Street View and Map Quest’s 360 View services— is considered the frontrunner to take on Begich. Another name mentioned is Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. Joe Miller, a Tea Party candidate in 2010 whose run for Senate memorably included handcuffing a blogger, has not ruled himself out.

Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana has toyed publicly with the idea of running against Landrieu, saying, “What American who loves their country wouldn’t want to run for the U.S. Senate?” And promising, “We’re going to go around the state and speak to supporters to see if there’s an appetite for the idea.”

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis is the frontrunner to take on Hagan, who was swept into office in 2008, a good year for Democrats in the state. Other names mentioned as contenders are: State Senate leader Phil Berger, James P. Cain, the former ambassador to Denmark, and Rep. Renee Ellmers, who just won a second term.

In Montana, Baucus began defense early, running radio ads in the spring announcing his intention to seek a seventh term. Though there’s been chatter about a primary challenge from outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Schweitzer has shot down the possibility.

Despite all of these takeover opportunities, Republicans first have to make it through the primary gauntlet, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, incoming GOP whip John Cornyn and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham are among the high-profile senators who could face primary challenges.

The conservative Club for Growth barely waited an hour after Capito’s announcement this morning to send out a press release, saying, “Congresswoman Capito’s record looks a whole lot like the establishment candidates who lost this year.”

One challenger McConnell won’t have to worry about, according to her 85-year-old grandmother, is actress Ashley Judd, who Democrats have floated as a possible general election opponent. Polly Judd told the Associated Press, “I don’t think there’s any possibility of that happening….She’s a Hollywood liberal. It would be interesting to see what type of race she would run.”

Ashley Judd, who lives in Tennessee, would have to re-establish a residence in Kentucky before she could challenge McConnell.