As both sides continue to pick up the pieces from the 2014 midterm elections, the conservative Club for Growth on Wednesday cast its gaze a bit further ahead, throwing its support behind six Republican U.S. senators up for re-election in 2016.
The group’s political action committee is endorsing Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
“The pro-growth class of 2010 has done excellent work in the United States Senate. Our members want to make sure they stay there for another six years,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.
The group said that if any of the candidates announce a bid for president, it will stop actively bundling money for their Senate campaign committees and that its endorsement of the senators’ re-election campaigns is not an endorsement of a presidential campaign.
Mr. Rubio and Mr. Paul are among a host of potential 2016 presidential contenders on the Republican side.
With Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan’s apparent victory over incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Begich — though Mr. Begich has yet to concede — Republicans are now poised to control at least 53 seats when the new Senate is sworn in next year. A win by GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy over Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana would swell the Republican ranks to 54 members.
The party might need that padding in two years. Republicans, who benefited in 2014 from an electoral map in which they were defending far fewer competitive seats than Democrats, now have to protect a number of GOP senators swept into office in the 2010 Republican wave.
Mr. Johnson, Mr. Toomey and Mr. Rubio, for example, all represent states carried twice by President Obama, as do GOP Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark Kirk of Illinois, all of whom were first elected in 2010.
Republicans will undoubtedly work furiously to oust Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada in 2016 after he survived a scare in 2010, and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is running for re-election in a state that just saw GOP Sen.-elect Cory Gardner oust Democratic Sen. Mark Udall from office.
But the rest of the comparatively fewer number of incumbent Democrats up in 2016 all hail from blue states and will be running in a presidential election year, when turnout is usually higher among demographic groups that typically favor Democrats.