Why a Sebelius Senate Run Could Help Republicans

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Susan Walsh/AP

With jobs and the economy a given, Republicans are working to turn the 2014 elections into an argument over the Affordable Care Act. And that message could be helped by a high-profile Senate race in Kansas against the very woman who oversaw the law's disastrous rollout.

Some Democrats are asking outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to challenge her home state senator, Republican Pat Roberts in the fall, the New York Times reported this morning.

Nominating Sebelius, a potentially serious contender in the state, would force national Republicans to spend money in Kansas, pulling away funds that could help them in other Senate battlegrounds this fall. Sebelius was a popular two-term governor in Kansas before joining the Obama administration and could put Roberts in the position of needing outside help, Democrats argue.

But Sebelius' entry into the race could also boost Republican efforts elsewhere in the country. It's not hard to imagine the national party using the caretaker of the first six months of the Affordable Care Act as a straw man for Democratic candidates and causes across the country in 2014. The fundraising letters practically write themselves.

If Sebelius does decide to run in 2014—and that's a big if—she could also help Roberts in his primary race, as Alex Roarty argued Wednesday morning. Roberts is running against Dr. Milton Wolf, a tea party challenger, who has faced criticism from the party establishment for some outlandish remarks and is, ironically, President Obama's cousin. With a high-profile Democrat on the ticket in November, Roberts could easily bring concerns about electability to the forefront, potentially derailing Wolf's already uphill campaign.

Very little polling has been done in the race so far, but even an automated survey from Public Policy Polling showed Roberts with a 26-point lead over Wolf. The same survey, conducted in February, shows both Republicans defeating Sebelius in a hypothetical fall match-up in a state Obama lost by almost 22 points last year.

This isn't the first time Sebelius has been named as a potential Senate candidate. She was encouraged by Democrats to run for then-Sen. Sam Brownback's seat in 2010, when he ran for governor, but ultimately decided to continue her work with the Obama administration.

After months of dealing with the fallout surrounding the issues with Healthcare.gov, it seems unlikely that Sebelius would jump into what promises to be a nasty race against Roberts and national Republicans. Friends told the Times they "seriously doubted" that she would run.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee would not comment on a possible Sebelius campaign.

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