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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.

Republicans like to draw comparisons between Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s re-election bid and that of former Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in 2010: Nelson’s numbers are so far in the tank that it will be nearly impossible to climb out of the hole with local voters.

In fact, not a single public independent poll released so far this year gives Nelson a lead over either of his GOP opponents: state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg. A Public Policy Polling survey taken in late January gave Bruning an 11-point lead over Nelson, while Stenberg had a 4-point advantage over the Senator. The poll of 977 Nebraska voters had a margin of error of 3.1 points.

Nelson would benefit if the primary between Bruning and Stenberg gets ugly. But even that might be wishful thinking for Democrats given the state’s early May primary, which would give either Republican ample time to fundraise and recover before the general election.

Regardless of what the polls read, Nelson is preparing for a strong race. He has already assembled a campaign team that includes his former campaign manager, Paul Johnson. He also had almost $1.5 million in the bank at the end of last year — money that will go a long way in a cheap media state.

Nevada

This race is shaping up to be a battle between two Members of Congress, Reps. Dean Heller (R) and Shelley Berkley (D), who represent vastly different populations in the state — Berkley’s Las Vegas and Heller’s Reno and rural Nevada.

Berkley has reportedly not decided yet whether to give up her safe House seat for only a crack at the Senate, but she is seriously weighing a bid as evidenced by a recent poll conducted on her behalf. Testing her strength against Heller, the poll found the race statistically tied.

The poll proved that in a tough Senate landscape for Democrats, Berkley could give the party its best chance to pick up a Senate seat.

However, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is covering its bases and has met with other potential candidates, including Secretary of State Ross Miller, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Treasurer Kate Marshall. DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil also released a memo touting the party’s chances, citing President Barack Obama’s 12-point win in 2008 and Democratic Sen. Harry Reid’s unexpected 5-point win last year.

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