Indiana's next major Senate race is arriving two years early, scrambling plans for a collection of ambitious Republicans in a place where many expected the next statewide opportunity to come in 2018, not 2016.
The question facing these Republicans after Sen. Dan Coats's retirement announcement Tuesday: How many of them will redirect their hopes toward next year's open seat, which is already drawing interest from a veritable fleet of GOP leaders, as opposed to waiting and trying to take on first-term Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in 2018? Those decisions mean everything now in a state that Democrats now eagerly tout as a new "“ if clearly second-tier "“ pick-up opportunity next year.
In a state with a deep, talented bench of GOP politicians and a lot of pent-up ambition, another opening for higher office might count as a good problem to have. But it's also a recipe for a primary free-for-all in which an array of credible Republicans jump at the chance to win a Senate seat sooner than most expected would be possible. There are few natural reasons why any of the Republicans considering campaigns would be better-suited to 2016 versus 2018.
"I think there were some people who were maybe jockeying for positions in 2018, and are now are reevaluating whether they're ready to go for 2016," said Tim Berry, chairman of the Indiana GOP. "Which race is better? That's the million dollar question that each of these individuals is probably evaluating at this time."