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Senate Control Hangs in the Balance

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Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
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.

The prospects include Newton Mayor Setti Warren, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei and Reps. Mike Capuano and Stephen Lynch. Gerry Kavanaugh, former chief of staff to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D), is one to watch as well.

The Democrats’ extended deliberation could be because Brown is far stronger than many expected he would be at this point. He is boosting his profile and fundraising — with $1.7 million raised in the first quarter — while he’s embarked on a national book tour. Recent polling suggests the former tea party darling may be the most popular politician in the Bay State. And a campaign aide said his first-quarter fundraising report will show a whopping $8.3 million in his campaign account.

Tea party leaders are grumbling about Brown’s moderate positions on some key votes such as financial reform and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but don’t expect him to face a serious challenge from the right.

Still, whichever Democrat emerges from the primary will make this race competitive, based on the Massachusetts voter registration numbers, if nothing else.

Missouri

Sen. Claire McCaskill is widely considered among the most vulnerable Democrats, and recent ethics troubles combined with Missouri’s difficult terrain for Democrats all but ensures the first-term Senator is in for a tough re-election bid — no matter her Republican opponent.

The Democrat has been snared by revelations that she expensed taxpayers for chartered flights she took aboard a plane she partly owned, and her troubles continued days later when it was revealed she owed more than $300,000 in unpaid property taxes.

The GOP field remains in flux as Rep. Todd Akin takes a serious look at the race. State insiders think he would instantly leap to frontrunner status ahead of former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman and former House candidate Ed Martin, who are both already in the race, as well as former state party Chairwoman Ann Wagner. Former Sen. Jim Talent, whom McCaskill narrowly defeated in 2006 as part of the Democratic wave, is taking a pass.

The race will likely become a target for outside spending from both national party campaign committees. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is already criticizing Steelman for public records that have gone missing from her tenure as treasurer, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee is expected to keep “Air Claire” at the front of voters’ minds for the campaign’s duration.

McCaskill, though, is a skilled, experienced politician whom national Democrats think can handle any of the potential GOP foes. Making it tougher for McCaskill is the fact Missouri is a red-leaning presidential swing state where Democrats have struggled to earn more than 50 percent of the vote in recent years.

Nebraska

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