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POLITICS: Campaigns

GOP says 'there are no rules' in election fight to take the Senate

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Congress,Senate,Republican Party,Tea Party,Mitch McConnell,2014 Elections,Campaigns,Rebecca Berg

A year out from Election Day 2014, national Republicans say they are prepared to take any steps necessary to retake a majority in the Senate -- whether that's fighting back conservative outside groups, spending money in Republican primary races or committing resources to more orthodox campaign strategies.

“All options are on the table in every race,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Collins said Tuesday. “We’re here to win.”

That includes, Collins said, potentially boosting a candidate or multiple candidates in competitive Republican primaries like the Senate race in Georgia, where eight Republicans are vying for the party's nomination. The Georgia field includes Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, conservatives whose past controversial statements have some Republican strategists worried that either would be a weak general-election contender.

The NRSC's strategy carries the risk of blowback from conservative activists and outside groups, who often use the trope of an overbearing “Republican establishment” as a rallying cry. But many Republicans charged after the 2012 election cycle that the NRSC was not aggressive enough — and so the tone at the committee has changed.

“I can do whatever I want, and I’m going to do whatever I need to win,” Collins said. “This is politics, and we’re ultimately in a win business.”

“There are no rules,” Collins added. “The path to getting a general election candidate who can win is all we care about.”

But the NRSC also cares about protecting GOP incumbents, and made news recently for publicly rebuking the Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group fighting to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., with conservative Matt Bevin.

“I don’t see this as a huge conflict between us and the outside groups,” Collins said of the NRSC’s actions to marginalize the group, including banning a Republican ad firm, Jamestown Associates, from getting future NRSC contracts because it worked with the SCF.

National Republicans are betting such intervention in primaries and against competing conservative groups could strengthen their hand in 2014 by preventing weak candidates, like former Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who lost a general election race to Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., from entering the political bloodstream.

Democrats dismissed the NRSC's plan, saying the investment won’t pay off and will drain Republicans’ resources from toss-up general election races.

“I think it is safe to assume that Club for Growth will spend to make sure that one of their candidates wins,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Matt Canter. “So the NRSC will be spending their limited resources against groups like Club for Growth, trying to defeat more conservative candidates.”

Collins insisted the outlook is rosy for Republicans in the 2014 mid-term elections despite the “political exhaust of the [government] shutdown.” The GOP can still capitalized on President Obama's all-time low public approval rating and the persistent public dissatisfaction with Obamacare, he said.

Democrats and Republicans will be dueling in earnest over just a handful of states in their fight for control of the Senate, including competitive Democratic re-election races in Arkansas, Alaska and Louisiana and open races in Montana, South Dakota and Iowa, among others.

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