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Lansing — Longtime southwest Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton said Thursday he’s flattered by the speculation but has not taken any concrete steps to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2018.

Multiple GOP insiders have floated Upton’s name as they look to recruit a top-tier candidate to take on Stabenow, who cruised to re-election in 2012, defeating former Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Holland by more than 20 percentage points.

Upton said he appreciates the encouragement to run for the statewide office but has so far “done nothing to either promote or begin to look at that — not even a pebble.”

His political team hasn’t done any polling on the potential matchup, he said Thursday in Lansing. They haven’t formed an exploratory committee or attempted to start raising money for what would be an expensive race.

“I guess at some point we’ll consider it, but we don’t have any timeline, and I’m not here in Lansing today to do that,” Upton told The Detroit News outside the Michigan Capitol, which he visited early Thursday ahead of an afternoon meeting with Gov. Rick Snyder.

Upton and Snyder were expected to talk about health care reform, federal spending proposals that could affect Michigan and other issues, he said – “not the Senate.”

Upton’s potential cross-over appeal and fundraising prowess makes him an attractive candidate for Republicans, said Susan Demas, owner and editor of Inside Michigan Politics. But candidates typically start getting serious about the U.S. Senate roughly two years out.

“I think he has more time than other candidates, but we’re already over halfway through April,” Demas said. “So I think if he doesn’t give the party some sign this is something he’s serious about, you’ll start to see at least one other big name emerge, possibly multiple names.”

John Truscott, a Republican consultant and public relations strategist, said Upton has plenty of time to make a decision because he already has a trusted team of skilled campaign staffers.

“Nationally there are going to be quite a few competitive races, so that’s what you have to worry about right now — who’s available,” Truscott said.

joosting@detroitnews.com

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