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’12 Senate Battles on Democratic Turf

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Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is among the top targets for Republicans itching to win back the Senate in 2012, and the GOP thinks the path to victory might travel through Florida.

Lugar, the former mayor of Indianapolis, had no Democratic challenger in 2006 and trounced a Libertarian challenger. Potential Republican challengers include state Sen. Mike Delph, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock and Don Bates Jr., who lost the 2010 Republican primary to Coats. A split primary, however, may clear the way for Lugar to win easily.

There are credible potential Democratic challengers. Ellsworth and fellow outgoing Rep. Baron Hill, both of whom have run statewide, could run, as could Rep. Joe Donnelly. Donnelly squeaked out his re-election bid in northern Indiana but is likely to end up in a more hostile district after redistricting. Tim Roemer, the former Indiana Congressman and current ambassador to India, is also mentioned as a strong potential candidate.

Tennessee

Sen. Bob Corker (R)

Corker, whose 2006 win against then-Rep. Harold Ford Jr. was a bright spot for Republicans as the party lost the Senate, will seek re-election in what could be an easy race given the beating Tennessee Democrats took this month.

But tea party activists have been targeting Corker, protesting at his office and calling him a “Republican in name only” whom they’d like to see defeated. Corker loyalists dismissed primary potential as inside-the-Beltway chatter. A GOP firm’s June poll of Republican primary voters found Corker in good standing with the GOP and even with a 72-percent approval rating among voters who identify with the tea party and who would attend a tea party rally.

Corker has been hosting town halls to explain his role in financial reform and to pitch his ideas for capping spending and stopping additions to the deficit, an aide said.

Tennessee Democrats admitted they remain shell-shocked after losing three House seats, 14 state House seats and the governor’s mansion in the midterm election. Outgoing Gov. Phil Bredesen is the Democrats’ preferred candidate, but he’s given no indication he’s interested in running for Senate. His office declined to comment. A Republican source noted that Corker and Bredesen have been friends for years since working together in the mid-1990s to bring the Houston Oilers to Tennessee.

Other potential candidates could be retiring Democratic Reps. Bart Gordon and John Tanner or defeated Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis. State Sen. Roy Herron, who lost his bid for Tanner’s seat, also could run statewide.


Safe Democratic

Delaware

Sen. Tom Carper (D)

There’s little reason to expect the fireworks of 2010’s Senate race in the First State to resurface in 2012. Carper is expected to run for a third term, and he’s expected to win.

Yes, the now-famous tea-party-backed Christine O’Donnell has not ruled out a fourth Senate bid. But she was underwhelming in 2010, losing by 16 points to a little-known county executive, even after raising millions of dollars from conservatives across the country.

The popular Republican Rep. Mike Castle, who lost the GOP Senate primary to O’Donnell and will be out of politics in January for the first time in three decades, isn’t likely to challenge Carper, a longtime ally. And allegiances aside, Castle will be 73 years old the next time Delaware voters head to the polls.

Delaware Republicans aren’t known for having a deep bench, and in fact, lost seats in their state House in 2010.

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map of 2012 senate race ratings

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