Sen. Roger Wicker op-ed:

While Everyone’s Talking About the Presidential Race, Here’s Where the GOP Stands in the Senate (IJ Review)

By U.S. Senator Roger Wicker

The race for the White House is in full swing. We’re months away from the first vote of the presidential primaries, but Americans are already fully engaged in the campaigns, and with good reason. However, in battleground states across the country, voters will make another important decision about the future of our country because control of the Senate is once again at stake.

As Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, it’s my duty to ensure our next president has a Republican Senate majority to guide the country in the right direction. The 2014 election sent a clear message that the do-nothing status quo in the Senate was unacceptable. I’m proud that the Senate is back to work under the leadership of Sen. Mitch McConnell, and it is crucial that we maintain a Republican majority in 2016.

With just over 14 months until Election Day, we’ve already laid the proper groundwork. Republican Senators who are on the ticket are already working hard to build their reelection efforts. In states where Republicans have an opportunity to gain a seat, we have top-tier candidates running strong campaigns. And in key states where Democrats are expected to run their strongest races, recruitment failures and brutal primary battles threaten to derail their best efforts.

Republicans have seen overwhelming success on the ballot over the past several election cycles, building a remarkable stable of viable potential candidates ready to take the big stage. Democrats have had the opposite experience. Devastated by losses in Congress and at the state level, national Democrats have been forced to adopt a “Rookies and Retreads” recruiting strategy. They have no choice but to pin their electoral hopes on past losers and untested candidates in their biggest races.

Candidates like Russ Feingold in Wisconsin and Ted Strickland in Ohio have been emphatically rejected by voters in past elections. And novices such as Jason Kander in Missouri and Harry Reid’s handpicked successor Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada are untested, unproven, and unprepared for a tough race.

Even in races where Washington Democrats thought they had found their preferred candidates, messy primary fights are already underway. Democrat activists in Illinois have rejected Tammy Duckworth’s candidacy, with both the state party and Cook County Democrats refusing to endorse her over former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp. In Florida, Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy are already at open war with each other. And in Pennsylvania, national Democrats finally convinced Katie McGinty to run against activist favorite and 2010 loser Joe Sestak, forcing a Democrat primary.

To put it plainly, Democrats are in total disarray in key races. These primary battles promise to bolster Republicans’ chances for success in these states.

Candidates matter, and Republicans have strong candidates. Independent leaders like incumbent Senators Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, Rob Portman, Ron Johnson, and Mark Kirk are successful, well-liked, and ready to run winning campaigns – with the fundraising and poll numbers to prove it. When Harry Reid decided to retire rather than face Nevada voters, Republicans were presented with the top pick-up opportunity of the cycle. We couldn’t ask for a better candidate than Joe Heck, a practicing physician, Army Brigadier General, and Congressman from a swing district with a significant Hispanic population.

Make no mistake. We know that Democrats are gunning for our majority. Democrats opened this cycle with many advantages on paper and have set their expectations accordingly. We’re taking nothing for granted, but we also know that we have the best team on the field. Our campaigns will be well-funded, well-prepared, and ready to communicate their messages to voters with every available tool. We’re ready for a fight, but we stand on solid ground as we build and maintain an enduring Republican majority in 2016 and beyond.