The top name being discussed to challenge Kyl is Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who just held off a tough GOP challenge in her Tucson-based district. Other possibilities in the Republican-leaning state include Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Harry Mitchell, who were both just defeated for re-election. Also mentioned by insiders was Jon Hulburd, an attorney who lost to Rep.-elect Ben Quayle (R) but was said to have run a great field operation.
Wicker (R) plans to seek re-election and has already been barnstorming the state to shore up support. Wicker was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour (R) after Sen. Trent Lott (R) stepped down. Wicker won a 2008 special election to serve the remainder of Lott’s term.
A Wicker spokesman said the 2011 statewide elections to replace the term-limited Barbour are Mississippi’s primary focus, and he believes a Democratic candidate will emerge to challenge Wicker in early 2012.
This race is expected to be an easy one for Republicans since Mississippi Democrats lost seats this month, leaving Rep. Bennie Thompson as the only Democrat in the delegation.
The question in Texas is whether Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will run for re-election after losing her primary bid for governor in 2010. Hutchison irked state Republicans by first saying she would retire and then changing her mind. In 2012, this race is likely to be won in the Republican primary whether or not Hutchison seeks re-election. Republican Elizabeth Ames Jones, a railroad commissioner, has already opened a federal campaign account to seek the nomination, and former Secretary of State Roger Williams also has his campaign under way.
The number of Democrats who could credibly run for statewide office in Texas is small and shrinking after the 2010 cycle. Former Houston Mayor Bill White, who lost his 2010 gubernatorial bid to Gov. Rick Perry (R), already has declined to run for Senate in 2012. Democratic Reps. Chet Edwards and Ciro Rodriguez, who lost their re-election bids, will have options in 2012, including the Senate race and additional Congressional districts following redistricting.
Hatch is a top candidate for a Republican primary after Sen. Bob Bennett was defeated at the state party convention in May. The most likely top-tier challenger is Rep. Jason Chaffetz, an up-and-comer in the House GOP caucus who just won a second term.
Chaffetz already has a record. He came to Congress by ousting sitting Rep. Chris Cannon (R) in a primary, and he has hinted openly that he is considering running against Hatch.
As it was with the 2010 Senate race, the fireworks may all take place in the primary. Rep. Jim Matheson is the top Democrat in the state to watch, but he will have a tough time of it given Utah’s strong Republican leanings.
Unless a credible primary challenger emerges, Barrasso will likely be elected to a full term in 2012. Wyoming has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970, and Barrasso won the 2008 special election with 73 percent of the vote.
Outgoing Gov. Dave Freudenthal would be the top Democratic challenger in the race if he decides to run, though that possibility is believed to be a long shot at this point.