Balance of Power: Republican Leaders Aid House Members Weighing Senate Bids

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From left, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, listen as other members of the House GOP caucus speak during the media availability following the House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on March 5, 2013.

Republican Reps. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Steve Daines of Montana haven’t yet said if they’ll run for Senate seats now held by Democrats.

Fundraising help from high-ranking Republican senators may facilitate their decision-making.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sent $10,000 each to Cotton and Daines in May through his political organization, Bluegrass Committee, it said last month in a filing to the Federal Election Commission.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Republican senator, sent $2,500 to Daines on June 26 through his leadership political action committee, Heartland Values PAC, it said in a filing yesterday.

McConnell is in line to become majority leader if Republicans boost their seat total in the 2014 elections to 51 or more from their current 46. That may require Republicans winning both Arkansas, where Sen. Mark Pryor is seeking a third term, and Montana, where Sen. Max Baucus isn’t seeking re-election.

Both states are inviting targets for Republicans. Mitt Romney, as the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, took 61 percent of the vote in Arkansas and 55 percent in Montana.

The donations from McConnell and Thune are noteworthy because their leadership PACs donate almost exclusively to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Republican senators seeking re-election, or to announced Senate candidates. Rarely do their leadership PACs donate to House members outside their home states.

Cotton and Daines were first elected last November. Daines is the at-large representative of a state that borders Thune’s South Dakota. Democratic groups have launched a preemptive attack against Cotton, a Harvard-educated Army veteran.

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