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With less than six months to go until the June primary, viable Republican challengers to Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein aren't exactly rushing to file nomination papers.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 ranking House Republican, suggested Monday that fellow House Republican David Dreier could be a formidable challenger.

"He's a good member. He has probably statewide name ID, more so, having served," the Bakersfield Republican told a group of reporters Monday. "I think he's very smart, he's smart on issues. I think he'd be a big contrast."

Few political insiders believe Dreier, whose own congressional re-election prospects have been complicated by redistricting, actually plans to challenge Feinstein this year. He dramatically scaled back campaign operations and posted anemic fundraising numbers last year. A spokesperson could not be reached for comment on his plans Monday.

McCarthy, who was in Sacramento to speak at a Public Policy Institute of California luncheon, shopped short of endorsing a bid by Dreier, saying a "lot of people," including GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, have the name recognition to run against the 78-year-old incumbent Democrat.

"I really believe if you challenged Feinstein, and made a real race of it and go up and down the state, I just don't think she has the same passion she once had. I look at the numbers, her numbers are not where they should be," he said, referring to recent polling numbers putting Feinstein's job approval at under 50 percent.

As for Elizabeth Emken, the nonprofit executive who threw her hat in the ring late last year? McCarthy said she too has a "good chance," despite coming in fourth in a GOP congressional primary in 2010.

"Abraham Lincoln lost a race for the Senate, served one term in the House, became president," he said. "Barack Obama was a state senator, ran, wasn't favored. He actually lost his race for Congress in the primary by 30 percentage points. There's opportunity."


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