A game of political music chairs is unfolding in Indiana ahead of the 2024 campaign cycle as some of the state’s most high-profile Republicans begin to lay the groundwork for new perspectives amid a competitive national Senate landscape.
The looming reshuffle began after Senator Mike Braun announced in December that he plans to run for governor rather than seek a second term.
Since then, Rep. Jim Banks has officially thrown his hat in the ring to succeed Braun, and at least two other Hoosier Republicans — Rep. Victoria Spartz and former Gov. Mitch Daniels — have emerged as potential contenders. Spartz confirmed the possibility in December, and while Daniels hasn’t publicly acknowledged the possibility of a Senate nomination, he hasn’t ruled it out either, sources told ABC News.
Republican officials said that while multi-legislature primaries are not a new phenomenon, they give Indiana a unique political brand that fosters candidates’ ability to articulate and implement conservative policies.
“The Indiana Republican Party is both blessed and cursed,” said Pete Seat, who served as executive director of the Indiana Republican Party before running for state treasurer in 2022.
“It’s blessed to have an exceptionally large talent bank – just look at the fact that 90% of the statewide offices are Republicans. We have supermajorities in the State House and the State Senate. We have a lot of people who could run for federal office, but that’s also the curse: there are only so many opportunities [available]’ Seat said in an interview with ABC News.
The 2024 Senate race is taking place in the same year as the presidential election, ensuring high voter interest and media coverage. Republicans are also trying to retake the chamber, and keeping Braun’s seat makes it all the easier to focus on the 23 Senate seats held by Democrats or independents, several of them in red or swing states.
Armed with a wide array of Republican talent, Hoosier’s conservatives are now watching closely to see if Daniels decides to return to politics. He was head of state for eight years, but left office in 2013 due to term limits.
Since then, Daniels has served as president of Purdue University and a columnist for the Washington Post on the national environment. Daniels resigned from his post at Purdue late last year, and in November he penned an Election Day column warning of how “transparent nonsense can be shielded by tribal or the groupthink of ‘elite’ opinion” while promoting the idea applied to fiscal policy.
“When an idea is comfortable enough to justify a preferred outcome, it can, despite mountains of evidence, or just plain common sense, be disproved. Think imaginary stolen elections or the disempowerment of the police force at a time of exploding crime,” Daniels wrote at the time.
The combination of the political themes Daniels cited — anti-election denial, pro-police — could lay the groundwork for the kind of platform the former governor was likely to express on the campaign trail.
“If there were a Mount Rushmore of Indiana politicians, Mitch Daniels would be there,” former Congressman Luke Messer told ABC News, while noting that Daniels’ status within the party does not prevent other Republicans from campaigning successfully.
The mounting speculation surrounding the upcoming Republican main lineup is already opening the door to political attacks. In an online video earlier this month, conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth pledged their support to Banks, calling Daniels “an old guard Republican clinging to the old ways of the bad ol’ days.”
Nearly a week into his Senate nomination, Banks can boast of another high-profile ally: former President Donald Trump.
In an interview with The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, Banks welcomed Trump into joining him on the campaign trail, and the former president – who announced his third presidential bid in November – appeared to embrace the idea on conservative social media.
Meanwhile, Spartz made waves earlier this month by changing her vote amid the contentious House of Representatives election. She chose to vote present on the fourth ballot before finally voting for current Speaker Kevin McCarthy on the 12th ballot. At the time, the congresswoman attributed her decision to delay fourth-round ballot momentum to her belief that Republicans would need to keep negotiating until a candidate had enough support to secure the gavel.
In a December campaign email, Spartz expressed her uncertainty about her future plans in politics, but confirmed she was asked to consider a Senate nomination. The congresswoman did not specify who requested her consideration for the role.
“I love our republic dearly and understand how important these times are to our nation, but I have to decide if I’m willing to dedicate at least 8 more years to Washington DC. As some of you may know, I’m not a huge fan of it,” Spartz wrote in the email, adding that she will make a decision on “how and where I can bring the most benefit, and will, to you.” sure to let know in January-February next year”.
Despite the current rough outlines of the race, state Republicans head into 2024 with a huge advantage to win the Senate seat, ensuring the national spotlight — and most of the political spending — continues into next year’s primary stay focused on them choice.
In November, incumbent Senator Todd Young was re-elected in a landslide victory that garnered nearly 60% of the vote.
The Democrats also seem to be on shaky ground in the state’s 3rd congressional district, which is being opened as a result of Banks’s candidacy for the Senate. The district encompasses the northeast corner of Indiana and has a partisan propensity of 34 points, according to FiveThirtyEight. Banks won re-election that fall with 65% of the vote.
Spartz represents the 5th congressional district, where she also won by double digits, topping 60% of the vote. The area includes portions of Indianapolis’ northern ring boroughs, where Republicans hold a 22-point party advantage over Democrats.
“Look at Indiana in 2022 — we actually had a red wave, other states didn’t,” Seat, formerly with the state GOP, told ABC News. “We talked that there would be a wave across the coasts, from sea to sea shining. Well, it happened here in the middle of America and it hasn’t happened anywhere else.”