Former Rep. Mike Rogers’s (R-Mich.) decision to jump in the Michigan Senate race is giving the GOP a shot in the arm as it looks to make waves across a bigger Senate map.
Contests in West Virginia, Montana and Ohio — three states with vulnerable Democratic incumbents that could swing control of the chamber — have been squarely on the minds of both parties all year.
But Republicans have been trying to recruit top candidates in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the GOP thinks it has a good chance if things break its way.
Enter Rogers, who became the first prominent Republican to enter the race to take on Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), the likely Democratic Michigan Senate nominee.
Michigan is a purple state that has become a trouble spot for Republicans since former President Trump’s upset win there in 2016, and top Republicans are lining up behind Rogers.
“The map expands significantly if you get the right candidates,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said, describing Rogers’ entry as a “huge get.”
“I think it puts that state in play. … Obviously, Michigan has been a tough state, but he’s the right kind of candidate.”
The seven-term House member and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee was also lauded upon his announcement by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). The Senate GOP campaign arm has been more heavy-handed this cycle in purposefully looking for strong general election candidates.
That posture is expected to continue in the Wolverine State, especially as former Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) looks at a primary bid and runs into opposition from some in the party. Meijer lost his primary bid in 2022 after he voted to impeach former President Trump.
“There’s a lot of resistance to a Meijer candidacy because he has no path to victory,” one GOP strategist said, adding that national Republicans “feel Rogers can do a better job of bringing together the pro-Trump and anti-Trump wings of the party.”
However, a Rogers bid is not without its warts. The ex-FBI agent retired from the House in 2014, became a national security consultant and analyst and has largely sat out a political decade that for Republicans has been dominated by Trump and a shift in their voter base.
Thune admitted that Rogers will likely need to “get his running shoes on again” and “get back in shape,” politically speaking.
Other top senators are unconcerned. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) served alongside Rogers for the entirety of their House careers and labeled him as “the whole package.”
“Our party is not monolithic,” Capito told The Hill. “Some people want to make it that way, and I think Michigan is probably one of those states that has a greater variety than maybe some other states.”
Republicans are hopeful that David McCormick will follow suit soon in Pennsylvania in the party’s quest to oust Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). Multiple GOP sources indicated that McCormick is doing everything consistent with preparation for a Senate bid, including interviewing and hiring staff, appearances at county events and continued events to promote his book.
A McCormick Senate announcement is expected in the near future, sources familiar said.
Finally, Republicans are awaiting word on whether businessman, Eric Hovde, will take the plunge to set up a matchup in Wisconsin next November with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). According to one Wisconsin GOP operative, Hovde has moved closer to launching a bid, but there is no timeline for a potential campaign announcement.
Hovde has become the top choice in Wisconsin for many national Republicans, as he can self-fund an operation and has experience running a statewide campaign. He lost a primary to former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) in 2012 for the seat Baldwin currently occupies.
That race, however, is forcing Hovde to do a lot of work mending fences with the national GOP crowd that opposed and helped defeat him 12 years ago. He has held discussions with NRSC Chairman Steve Daines (R-Mont.) as he weighs a possible run.
“He knows that he has a luxury that others don’t have,” the operative said, pointing to Hovde’s ability to self-fund and, as a result, announce later than most other candidates. “He is a guy who has done this before, knows what a tough campaign is, is a good messenger because he’s a straight-talker and he has the resources.”
“People realize that’s a pretty good candidate at the end of the day,” the operative added.
Despite the ray of optimism for the GOP, Democrats remain confident in those contests as they look to keep hold of those seats and keep their slim majority.
“I think they’re all in a good, strong position because they have proven records. My sense is that in each case, the people in those states recognize that they put their states first and always have delivered and will continue to deliver,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who ran the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2018, the last year each of the party’s incumbents won.