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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.

The list of other potential GOP candidates, however, is long and largely uncertain. It is topped by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, followed by state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., who lost to Menendez in 2006. Others to watch include state Sens. Michael Doherty and Joseph Kyrillos, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and unsuccessful House candidate Anna Little, the former mayor of Highlands.

Ohio

Senate Republicans made it clear early this cycle that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) was one of the names on the top of their target list. But so far, some of the more prominent Republicans in the Buckeye State — including Attorney General Mike DeWine, the former Senator whom Brown unseated in 2006, and Reps. Jim Jordan and Patrick Tiberi — have indicated they will likely take a pass at challenging Brown.

State Treasurer Josh Mandel filed candidacy paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Monday. Republicans are high on Mandel’s profile as a veteran and cite the former state Representative’s predominantly Democratic district as proof of his statewide appeal, but Democrats say his relative inexperience — he was just elected statewide last November — makes him no match against Brown.

The other Republican openly considering a bid is former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who lost a gubernatorial bid in 2006.

Blackwell’s base is in southwest Ohio, which is the opposite part of the state as Mandel’s home turf, and he is widely considered to be a more conservative candidate — a scenario that could lead to a divisive GOP primary if both Republicans decide to run.

Meanwhile, public polling shows that Brown is increasingly less vulnerable as the election cycle continues. A Public Policy Polling survey of 559 Ohio voters in early March showed Brown leading all of his potential opponents by at least 15 points.  The poll had a 4.1-point margin of error.

Brown is also preparing for what Democrats anticipate to be a challenging campaign and recently tapped Sarah Benzing, who managed the successful re-election bid of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) last cycle, to run his race.

Pennsylvania

Given GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s success in 2010, Republicans should have an opportunity to knock off first-term Sen. Bob Casey (D) in 2012.

But Republican leaders concede Pennsylvania is one of the states where they have some recruitment holes. That could be because Democrats enjoy a substantial voter-registration edge, which will likely be a far greater factor with President Barack Obama atop the ballot in 2012 than it was in the 2010 midterms.

The outlook for Republicans has become a joke in the state, prompting a local political blog, PoliticsPa.com, to run an April Fools’ Day story titled “GOP Recruits Potted Plant to Challenge Casey in 2012.”

That said, there are at least two who have announced bids: Marc Scaringi, a former aide to Sen. Rick Santorum (R), and Scranton Tea Party leader Laureen Cummings.

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