(This report originally ran in the Detroit Free Press on February 15, 2013.)
WASHINGTON (Detroit Free Press) -- U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, the west Michigan Republican who has had difficulties with leaders in his own party, is reportedly interested in running for the U.S. Senate.
The website for the conservative National Review reported Thursday that Amash is "privately considering a Senate bid, should incumbent Democrat Carl Levin retire."
Amash's office did not immediately return an e-mail for comment to the Free Press.
The National Review said that Amash, a 32-year-old former state legislator from Cascade Township, who is in his second term in Congress, has met with allies to talk about running for the Senate but that no decision is expected until Levin -- a Michigan Democrat who joined the Senate in 1978 -- makes up his mind whether to run for a seventh six-year term next year.
Levin, 78, told the Free Press on Thursday that he isn't ready to announce one way or the other.
"We're still thinking it through," he said.
Amash has quickly established himself as an independent Republican with strong links to the party's libertarian wing, whose ideology is perhaps best associated with former Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Amash has broken ranks on several occasions with Republican leaders in the House because he didn't believe their attempts to rein in government spending and authority went far enough.
He was moved off a spot on the House Budget Committee after going against leadership on several occasions.
But Amash, if he ran statewide, could potentially tap into a libertarian streak in state Republican circles during a primary campaign -- though that also could be seen by more mainstream Republicans as a threat. Some Republican activists have argued that candidates too far from the center have hurt the party's chances of winning seats in recent elections.
"The establishment, such as it is, would be nervous," said Craig Ruff, a Lansing political consultant.
While Amash might lack name recognition in populous southeast Michigan, that's not the case in west Michigan, which might help him in a Republican primary, Ruff said. And Amash also has the support of ex-Amway CEO Dick DeVos and his wife, Betsy DeVos, who have long been power brokers in the state Republican Party.
Amash "could have a well of funding behind him," Ruff said.
Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the state Republican Party, said Amash is "widely respected across the state and would be a formidable opponent" if he decided to enter the race.
That said, it could be a tough road for any Republican to win a U.S. Senate race in Michigan. In the 20 Senate elections in the state over the last 59 years, Republicans have won three.
By Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press Washington bureau