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Senate Control Hangs in the Balance

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President Barack Obama has his sights set on a second win in Florida in 2012. Should Obama run a strong Sunshine State campaign, it could boost Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, the only Democrat left still holding statewide office. That’s one reason Obama made Florida one of his first campaign stops. Voters should expect to see the two of them together again.

State Treasurer Richard Mourdock announced early that he would run against Lugar, pitching himself as a Republican with support from both local tea party activists and local party leaders and attacking the Senator for his moderate voting record. Mourdock came out of the gates with the support of more than half of the state’s county GOP chairmen — although Lugar’s aides dispute that list, arguing that it overstates the challenger’s support.

If there is a path for Lugar’s re-election, it will rely heavily on his cash reserves, including the more than $3 million that he will report on hand as of March 31. That’s thanks in part to his $974,000 fundraising haul in the first quarter.

Lugar’s campaign also boasted that it raised $400,000 at one in-state fundraiser in January — three times that of Mourdock’s haul for the entire first quarter, which the GOP challenger has said is around $125,000.

Lugar would also potentially benefit if Republican state Sen. Mike Delph, who is still openly considering running, jumps into the race and splits the opposition vote in the primary. Delph told Roll Call that he will make a final decision about the race after the state legislative session is over at the end of April.

Senate Democrats think they have a better shot at the seat if Lugar loses the primary, especially if there is a bloody GOP battle, but it is still an uphill climb for the party. Nonetheless, Rep. Joe Donnelly is openly considering a bid for Senate — a relatively good option for the three-term Democrat as his district is expected to be redrawn to include more Republicans this next cycle. He’d considered a bid for governor, but Senate is looking more likely.

President Barack Obama won the state in 2008, but it’s looking less likely that he can repeat that feat again in 2012. That’s one reason the seat is still likely to remain in GOP hands should Lugar lose the primary.

Correction: April 12, 2011

The article misidentified potential New Jersey Republican Senate candidate Anna Little’s current job. She is the former mayor of Highlands, N.J.

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