Now, with the issue of minority outreach taking center stage at least for a while, Republicans are looking to Watts to step in and lend a hand. In the longterm, it could mean that Watts has a U.S. Senate run in his future. The near future. With Sen. Don Nickles deciding not to pursue the Majority Leader slot, instead remaining as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, the thinking is that Nickles will serve out the final two years of his current term and then retire.
“He hasn’t been talking about it, but if you look at what he’s done over the past several years: not fighting to remain in leadership, not pursuing the Majority Leader position, you have to think he’s winding down, not gearing up,” says a Nickles staffer.
Watts has said that he wouldn’t mind a Senate run, and now Republicans will be far more eager to see a Watts run than before. There were thought to be several other candidates in line to fill the Nickles Senate seat should he decide to retire. Outgoing Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating was thought to be a leading candidate.
But with the Lott mess “the thinking would have to be that Watts is the man,” says an RNC staffer. “He’s seasoned, has a huge name recognition in the state and is a national figure who can fundraise beyond the state’s borders. We’d probably clear the decks for him so he’d have an easy primary. Everything we’re hearing now indicates that this is something he’d want to do now.”p> RUDY WHEN YOU ARE br> With
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