Washington (CNN) – Have national Democrats found their candidate in Texas?
Last week Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, announced that the Lone Star state was one of the "Six in '12" states that Democrats were targeting in 2012, and added that Democrats were close to announcing a candidate in Texas.
Fast forward to Monday: Democratic party sources confirm to CNN that retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez is expected to run for the open seat currently held by Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who announced in January that she would not run in 2012 for a fifth term in office.
A source tells CNN that with his centrist, military background, "no one is going to call Sanchez a liberal." The source also points out that Sanchez, a Mexican-American who is a native of Rio Grande City, Texas, is well suited to "capture the surging Hispanic demographic" in the state, which could be more motivated to cast ballots with President Barack Obama on the ballot.
Sanchez tells McClatchy Newspapers, which first reported the story, that "I can neither confirm nor deny," whether he would run for the Senate.
And he tells CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr Monday that "I am humbled by all the speculation. I am still considering the possibilities."
Sanchez was the top U.S. military commander in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. The abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prisoner happened on his watch. While Sanchez emphasized that he had no knowledge of the actions at the prison, the controversy tainted him and effectively prevented any chance at promotion. Sanchez retired from the Army in 2006.
As you can imagine, both Senate party committees are speaking out about a possible bid by Sanchez.
"General Sanchez has spent his entire life serving our country, and there's no question he would be a strong candidate if he decides to continue to serve his country in the U.S. Senate." says DSCC Communications Director Matt Canter. "He has a tremendous life story, growing up poor, rising to the rank of General in the Army, and bravely leading more than a hundred thousand troops in both Gulf Wars. He would bring a new perspective to the Senate, as well as a proven commitment to our nation's security and the men and women who fight to protect it. He's exactly the kind of independent leader who can win in Texas."
"We look forward to hearing where he (Sanchez) stands on the issues facing Texas and our country. But whomever the Democrats ultimately nominate, Republicans can only hope that person campaigns side-by-side with Barack Obama in Texas and national Democrats decide to spend millions of dollars in the Lone Star State," responds Brian Walsh, National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director.
A number of big name Republicans are running for seat. Among them are Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is considered by many to be the favorite for the GOP nomination as well as the general election. Among others making bids are former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams, who is endorsed by former President George H.W. Bush, Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, former Railroad Commission member Michael Williams, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Ted Cruz, former Solicitor General of Texas.
The non-partisan Cook Political Report handicaps the race right now as "Likely Republican" with the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report characterizing the contest as "Currently Safe Republican."
Democrats currently have a 53 to 47 majority in the Senate. They are defending 23 seats (21 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party) next year, with the GOP defending 10 seats.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn