The Obama campaign and Senate Democrats really want to make the Grand Canyon State competitive, but their nominee will be facing a top-tier Republican recruit.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R) jumped into the race in February, immediately after Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R) announced his retirement. Flake has since picked up an endorsement and fundraising assistance from the Club for Growth and successfully avoided a competitive primary against fellow Rep. Trent Franks.
Democrats in the state are hanging back in deference to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as she recovers from the gunshot wounds that she suffered in January. Giffords was considered a possible Senate contender before that and a miraculous return to the campaign trail would instantly turn this race upside down. Unless she or another top-tier Democrat enters the race, it will be difficult for the party to make this a competitive seat.
Rep. Ed Pastor (D) has said he is looking at the race, and other names mentioned by Democrats in the state include Democratic National Committeeman Fred DuVal, who sits on the state Board of Regents and is a former Clinton administration official; attorney and former Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens; and Felecia Rotellini, a former assistant state attorney general and 2010 attorney general nominee.
Sen. Olympia Snowe is among a dying breed of Republicans.
The moderate Senator may face the most challenging re-election fight of her career in 2012. Identified as a top target by some tea party groups, she is expected to face attacks from the right and left.
But both sides have been slow to yield a viable challenger.
Local tea party groups are warring among themselves and have yet to rally around either Republican candidate, former town selectman Scott D’Amboise or Andrew Ian Dodge, a freelance writer and the state coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots.
It remains to be seen whether another Republican will step up.
And at least two prominent Democratic women will likely decide whether to run based on the nature and outcome of the GOP primary.
The first is Rosa Scarcelli, a businesswoman who lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2010 but has a continued interest in higher office and the ability to self-fund. Term-limited state House Minority Leader Emily Cain, just 30 years old, is also watching the primary closely.
Out of any Senator up for re-election this cycle, Dick Lugar has earned the dubious distinction of being the first incumbent to have a serious primary challenge — and so far, prospects do not look promising for the most senior Republican in the Senate.