Strategery: Conservative groups using the wave to take out rising Democratic stars

National Republicans say there is no concerted effort to target candidates because of future races, but some said that weakening rising stars in the Democratic Party is a welcome byproduct of a year in which Republicans have expanded the playing field and are primed to make significant gains.

In Iowa and elsewhere, Republican operatives at the state level are salivating at the prospect of taking out the next big contenders for their Senate or governor’s seats.

It’s little secret, for instance, that Braley has his eyes on a statewide campaign – potentially a run at the seat of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) if the 70-year-old lawmaker retires in 2014.

“That’s why you’re seeing outside groups target him,” said one GOP operative in Iowa, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter candidly. “This guy’s for real, and there’s a real chance he could be the next senator from Iowa.”