Sen. Moran takes early, and lonely, lead in race for NRSC chairman post

Sen. Jerry MoranJerry MoranMeet the rising GOP star who already enrages the left GOP warming up to Cuba travel Senate clears FAA authorization bill MORE (Kan.) is the early favorite to take over as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) after the election. 

The reason? It’s a one-man race. 

The map for Senate Republicans in 2014 looks very favorable, but Moran is the only GOP member who has expressed an interest in the plum job.

Just over 40 days out from Election Day, Moran has begun to call colleagues to secure their support and fend off a possible leadership race. 

Several senators said they have talked to Moran about his ambitions for the job and have not heard from anyone else.  

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The names of Sens. Roy BluntRoy BluntThe Republicans' hypocrisy on minimum wage Overnight Energy: Officials close in on new global emissions deal 40 senators seek higher biodiesel mandate MORE (R-Mo.), Marco RubioMarco RubioGroups unendorse Grayson after domestic violence allegations Trump postpones Hispanic roundtable Tim Kaine backs call to boost funding for Israeli missile defense MORE (R-Fla.) and Bob CorkerBob CorkerTrump starts considering Cabinet Trump's secret weapon is Ivanka Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (R-Tenn.) have been floated as possible contenders, but all three lawmakers indicated to The Hill they are not interested.

Rubio told The Hill that he has not had any conversations with colleagues about the NRSC chairmanship and was not inclined to pursue it. However, he would not rule out the possibility.  

Sen. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonSanders could be secret weapon for Dems The Trail 2016: The newrevolution begins Greens launch M ad buy in Wis. Senate race MORE (R-Wis.), who narrowly lost to Blunt in a race to become vice chairman of the Senate GOP conference, said he does not plan to challenge Moran.  

Party leaders have approached Corker in the past about chairing the NRSC because as a former CEO he has a natural rapport with business leaders who fit the committee’s donor profile. But Corker wants to focus on policy, specifically a grand bargain next year to cut the deficit.  

The NRSC chairmanship has been a springboard to the upper ranks of the Senate GOP leadership. 

Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) vaulted from the NRSC to Senate majority leader after helping Republicans capture the upper chamber in 2002. McConnell became Senate Republican whip after heading the NRSC in the 1998 and 2000 cycles.  

Moran, who was elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving 14 years in the House, has a reputation for being ambitious throughout his congressional career. The freshman has an accomplished record on agriculture issues and sits on the Appropriations Agriculture subcommittee.  

A spokeswoman for Moran said her boss is concentrating on helping GOP candidates this fall. 

“While he has been encouraged by his colleagues to give the NRSC a serious look, Sen. Moran continues to be focused on making certain Republicans gain a majority in the Senate and win the White House this November,” said Garrette Silverman. “Through his work with FreeState PAC, Sen. Moran is traveling the country to raise money and has given to nearly every Senate candidate this cycle.

“He is also serving as a co-chairman of the Romney Farm and Ranch team,” she added. 

One lawmaker cautioned that another contender could emerge because Republicans feel confident they will retake the Senate in 2014 —if not this cycle. 

“If Obama wins reelection, and it kind of looks that way now, the president’s party traditionally loses seats in the midterm of the second term. The Democrats have to defend more seats than us. All it’s going to take is a chairman who can walk and chew gum to win back the Senate,” said the source.  

Moran could face a challenge from Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanThe Trail 2016: One large crack in the glass ceiling Portman secures another union endorsement over Democratic challenger in Ohio Union group backs GOP Sen. Portman in Ohio race MORE (Ohio), the low-key Republican freshman who is most known for his policy expertise. Portman served on the deficit-reduction supercommittee this Congress and could immerse himself again in the debt debate next year. 

Portman could have Senate leadership ambitions since being passed over for Mitt Romney’s running mate. He is one of the biggest fundraisers among the Senate Republican freshman class. A Portman aide did not rule out a bid for NRSC chairman.  

“Rob will spend the next month and a half doing everything he can for Romney and [Rep. Paul] Ryan [R-Wis.] in Ohio and to ensure he has as many Republican colleagues as possible with him in the Senate next year. Anything past Election Day will be considered at that point,” said the aide.  

Democrats will have to defend 20 seats in the 2014 cycle, including several incumbents running in red states: Sens. Max BaucusMax BaucusGlover Park Group now lobbying for Lyft Wyden unveils business tax proposal College endowments under scrutiny MORE (Mont.), Mark BegichMark BegichSenate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium MORE (Alaska), Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonFormer GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting Housing groups argue Freddie Mac's loss should spur finance reform On Wall Street, Dem shake-up puts party at crossroads MORE (S.D.), Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuBrazile’s new role? Clean up DNC mess oil is changing the world and Washington Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (La.), Mark PryorMark PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood MORE (Ark.) and Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerLobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner Overnight Tech: Senate panel to vote on Dem FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.).  

Freshman Sens. Al FrankenAl FrankenParty unity overcomes chaos...and the Bernie-or-Bust crowd The Hill's 12:30 Report Podesta: 'We need to move on and consolidate around Hillary' MORE (D-Minn.) and Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenDemocrats ‘freaked out’ about polls in meeting with Clinton GMO labeling bill advances in the Senate over Dem objections Overnight Defense: US blames ISIS for Turkey attack | Afghan visas in spending bill | Army rolls up its sleeves MORE (D-N.H.) could also face tough races. There is the possibility Rockefeller and fellow veteran Sens. Tom HarkinTom HarkinGrassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Do candidates care about our health or just how much it costs? MORE (Iowa) and Dick DurbinDick DurbinSyria activists cheer Kaine pick Democratic National Convention event calendar Opioid package clears key Senate hurdle MORE (Ill.) will retire. 

Republicans must defend only 13 seats. The most vulnerable GOP seat might belong to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellProgressive group changes tone on Kaine Trump hits Kaine on TPP: He supports a 'job killer' Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE (R-Ky.), who has a $6 million war chest and represents a conservative-leaning state. 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamSyria activists cheer Kaine pick Vulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine Meghan McCain: ‘I no longer recognize my party’ MORE (R-S.C.) could come under threat from a conservative challenger. The Club for Growth, a free-market advocacy group, says it might oppose him in the 2014 GOP primary. 

Republicans have seen their chances of winning the Senate this year fall since early last year, when they felt assured of seizing the majority. Their prospects took a hit with the surprise retirement of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) controversial statement on rape, which spurred the NRSC and Crossroads GPS, a Republican super-PAC, to pull funding from the Missouri race. 

One GOP senator said there is limited interest in taking over the NRSC because the current chairman, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Hopes dim for mental health deal Overnight Finance: Senate punts on Zika funding | House panel clears final spending bill | Biz groups press Treasury on tax rules | Obama trade rep confident Pacific deal passes this year MORE (Texas), set such a high standard with his grinding work ethic. 

“We see John Cornyn in the airport almost every weekend flying to one part of the country or another,” said another lawmaker. 

Cornyn has benefited from representing Texas, the wealthiest red state in the nation and home to many super-rich conservative donors he can tap to support GOP candidates. A successor could be hard-pressed to match his fundraising productivity. 

Another GOP senator said Moran has a good chance of winning the chairmanship because he is the only person aggressively campaigning for it. 

Moran straddles the divide between Tea Party conservatives and mainstream Republicans. He is a member of the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus but more of a team player than Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rand PaulRand PaulWhat to watch for on Day 2 at the GOP convention Cyber squatters sitting on valuable VP web addresses Majority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention MORE (R-Ky.), who have clashed with Republican leaders.

Moran last week backed Cornyn’s decision not to spend money to help Akin, while DeMint is pondering getting involved in the race.