NOVI, Mich. -- At a time when many political pundits are all but calling the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Carl Levin as a sure Democratic retention in 2014, Michigan's Republican chairman says the party is not writing off electing its first GOP senator in 18 years -- "not by a long shot."
Barack Obama's big win in the state over native son Mitt Romney fueled the talk that the election of another Democratic senator from Michigan is a forgone conclusion. After all, Michigan Republicans last won a Senate seat in 1994.
"They obviously didn't look at the rest of the ticket," Michigan GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak told Newsmax last week, shortly before the Oakland County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
"We held on to all of our members of Congress and our majority in the state House of Representatives and we kept our conservative majority on the Supreme Court," said Schostak. "We defeated Proposition Two, which would have put collective bargaining in the state constitution. A lot of folks said we had the best playbook in the country for turning out votes for the races under the presidential contest."
In contrast to state Democrats, who have already lined up behind Oakland-area Rep. Gary Peters as their standard-bearer, two Republican House members are taking their time deciding on whether to run for the Senate. And the last time a Republican House member from Michigan was elected senator was Rep. Charles Potter in 1952
Reps. Mike Rogers of the Lansing area, who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Justin Amash, who represents the Grand Rapids area and is a protege of Ron Paul, have yet to announce their intentions.
"A lot can happen between now and [the election] and our eventual nominee may emerge later rather than sooner," said Schostak, referring to the uncertain Republican Senate field.
During the Lincoln Day dinner, Republican National Committeewoman Terri Lynn Land told Newsmax she would begin the process for a Senate bid on June 1.
Referring to Rogers' extension in deciding whether to seek re-election or run for the Senate, Land said that she was going to press on with a Senate campaign "while Mr. Rogers decides what neighborhood he's in."
Also in the GOP Senate race is physician Rob Steele, who lost a race against Democratic Rep. John Dingell in 2010.
There has also been considerable talk among state Republicans that Rep. Dave Camp might give up the Midland-area seat he has held since 1990 and go for the Senate.
Camp, who will be termed out as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee next year, will relinquish considerable power when his gavel goes. In addition, his strongest partner in the movement for tax reform, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, is retiring in 2014.
So Camp would be giving up relatively little by gambling on a Senate seat.
"He'd be a strong candidate," Schostak told Newsmax, emphasizing his strict neutrality in any contested primary. "But we could have several strong candidates step up to run for the Senate."
Schostak went on to unveil plans to strengthen and enhance Republican activity at the grass-roots level. Run strictly within the state with no third-party organizations coming in, the "Michigan model" includes a spring-training session on messaging and communications for 500 individuals and a broad plan to decentralize the party.
"We want to get out of Lansing," Schostak said, referring to the state capital.
This will mean five regional party offices, each with a regional political director, press secretary, and coalition director, he said.
"We're doing away with the 'victory center' idea," said Schostak, referring to the plan in which voter turnout was centralized in one state operation during the election year. "We're getting into the roots of the grassroots."
With the party's strong grassroots push, Schostak isn't worried that the GOP hasn't found its candidate yet for the Levin Senate seat.
"You have to remember that it's May of 2013, not May of '14," Schostak said.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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