Key Senate Republicans to watch

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY): The top Republican in the Senate is facing a tough primary challenge from a Tea Partier. That means that in budget and debt ceiling negotiations, he may not feel he has much room to compromise.
  • Sen. Rand Paul (KY): His use of a talking filibuster to criticize the administration’s drone policy drew praise even from some Democrats. A 2016 run could split the GOP over foreign policy—though his economic libertarianism is pure Tea Party.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC): Graham faces a primary challenge from a crop of Tea Partiers, angered by his propensity to negotiate with Democrats over immigration among other issues. A close ally of John McCain, he could provide key GOP support for military action in Syria or elsewhere.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (FL): Appears to have an eye on 2016, but his prospects dimmed a bit after he alienated conservatives by putting himself at the center of immigration reform negotiations. And the issue doesn’t seem likely to go away.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (TX): His quasi-filibuster over Obamacare cemented his status as the new darling of the Tea Party and a potential 2016 contender—if he hasn’t alienated too many of his GOP colleagues.
  • Sen. Jerry Moran (KS): This unassuming Kansan leads the GOP’s Senate campaign committee. That means it’s his job to help avoid a repeat of the Todd Akin debacle that helped sink Republicans’ chances last time.
  • Liz Cheney (WY – candidate): Her primary challenge to the popular Wyoming senator Mike Enzi has gotten off to a rocky start, but a lively contest could make for fun progressive viewing. Less fun would be a Cheney victory: the former State Department official’s foreign policy views are essentially a clone of her father’s.
  • Sen. Mike Lee (UT): Lacks the self-promotional gifts of his close ally Cruz, but he may be the most authentic Tea Partier in the Senate. Keep an eye on him to see where Congressional conservatives might be heading next.



With the U.S. House of Representatives paralyzed by the GOP’s Tea Party caucus, the Senate could play a crucial role in finding ways to break the gridlock and taking the lead on key legislation for the rest of President Obama’s tenure in office. Not to mention that some of the potential 2016 presidential contenders who are generating the most buzz right now—from Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz—are denizens of the upper chamber. And as if that weren’t enough, the battle for control of the Senate figures to be the major storyline of next fall’s midterms, with most analysts predicting a down-to-the-wire race that could hinge on one or two contests.

That’s why it’s worth getting to know some of the key Senate players on both sides—as well as a few of the candidates who may soon be joining them. With a view to 2014 and beyond, here are some of the Republican senators—plus one high-profile candidate—to keep an eye on.

You can view our accompanying list of Democrats here.

For more feature photography, go to