Top-Tier GOP Senate Candidates a Hard Sell for Some Open Seats

It's a different story in Georgia and West Virginia where Republican leaders are actively seeking to discourage candidates they believe can't win while trying to cajole other candidates into entering the race:

National Republican officials also are working to head off primaries in several states and are taking sides when they can't. That includes in West Virginia, which Republican president nominee Mitt Romney won in 2012 and where six-term Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller is retiring.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito quickly announced her candidacy and became a favorite of the GOP establishment. Some conservatives complained about her votes for financial industry bailouts, and former state Sen. Patrick McGeehan has announced plans to challenge her.

National Republican Senate Committee officials said they would campaign and run ads against McGeehan if he appeared to be a threat.

In Georgia, several Republican candidates are considering trying to succeed the retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss. But so far, the two who have entered the race are arch conservative House members Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey.

National Republicans are treading carefully to avoid enraging the conservative base in Georgia. But the primary field could eventually include up to a half-dozen people.

Threatening to run ads against a candidate the national party doesn't like is stupid politics. It only alienates party regulars who see such blundering interference as evidence that the national GOP is out of touch with the people. Broun and Gingrey have little chance at winning the primary given their narrow appeal even to Republicans. Instead of fretting over picking the "right" candidate, the GOP should be positioning itself to support whichever candidate comes out on top. In a state where the GOP nominee is very likely to win regardless of who ends up on the ballot, there are going to be a lot of ambitious people running for the chance. Nothing the national party does can stop that process.

Still, it is worrisome that so many potentially excellent candidates are remaining on the sidelines. After all, this isn't 2012, when, a year out, there was a distinct possibility that it was going to be a Democratic year. That possibility probably scared off more than a few Republicans. More likely, the reluctance of some potential GOP candidates could be attributed to the early start by Democrats in some states where they seem to have coalesced around a single candidate a lot earlier than usual and aggressively begun to fundraise, putting them far ahead of any potential Republican rival.

With six open seats to defend of the 21 Democratic seats up for grabs in 2014, one would think the Republicans could glean an advantage. But unless some party stars get off the sidelines and into the race, Republicans are likely to blow another golden opportunity to take control of the Senate.