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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.

But keep an eye on deep-pocketed attorney Michele Rollins. She lost the 2010 GOP primary for the state’s at-large House seat to a more conservative candidate, and she could emerge as a challenger.

Maryland

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D)

Cardin is another member of the class of 2006 but unlike some of his colleagues, Cardin is running in one of the most Democratic states in the country and few if any Republican names are being floated as potential challengers.

In his first election, Cardin defeated Michael Steele, then the lieutenant governor and now the Republican National Committee chairman, by 10 points. This year, a tough cycle for Democrats almost everywhere, both Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) cruised to re-election.

Maryland has not elected a Republican Senator since 1980.

New Mexico

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D)

Bingaman has yet to announce his plans for 2012, but his recent actions indicate to Democrats in the state that the 67-year-old will be running for a sixth term.

One Democratic insider said Bingaman held his first fundraiser since 2006 in September, when he raised a few hundred thousand dollars, and he has another one scheduled in the state next month. He had $516,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30. Bingaman was also active on the trail this year for local, state and federal Democrats.

Much of the chatter over who will challenge Bingaman is centering on former Rep. Heather Wilson. The Albuquerque Republican, who lost in the 2008 Senate primary, is currently serving as chairwoman of the transition team for Gov.-elect Susana Martinez, and party insiders on both sides said she is seriously considering a bid.

Already in the race is Bill English, a businessman who briefly ran for the House in 2001.


Safe Republican

Arizona

Sen. Jon Kyl (R)

The Senate Minority Whip is expected to run for a fourth term in 2012. Democrats failed to put forth a top-tier challenger against Sen. John McCain (R) in 2010, and at this point it is unclear if any will step forward against Kyl, who has won re-election fairly easily. However, a Democratic source suggested the state would be among the party’s prime targets given that President Barack Obama will try to win the state in 2012.

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