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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.

Republican Sen. George LeMieux, appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to fill the remainder of Sen. Mel Martinez’s term when the Republican resigned from the Senate, would be a strong favorite should he decide to run. LeMieux has been open about his interest in challenging Nelson, telling reporters he will decide over the holidays, but his office did not respond to calls seeking comment.

After LeMieux, Republicans like the incoming state Senate president, Mike Haridopolos. A GOP source said he is considered among the party’s up-and-comers.

Republican Reps. Connie Mack IV, Vern Buchanan and Tom Rooney also are on the bench. Buchanan and Rooney could be self-funders should they run, making them more appealing to the state party.

State House Majority Leader Adam Hasner is term-limited from that position and is another possible contender, and a perennial dark horse is former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Massachusetts

Sen. Scott Brown (R)

Regardless of his opponent, his current popularity or the size of his bank account, Brown is in serious danger of losing his place in the Senate.

Despite his shocking January 2010 victory in the special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D), Massachusetts remains a deep blue state. Lest there be some doubt, Bay State Democrats captured every statewide office and Congressional seat earlier in the month, beating back the conservative movement that shaped elections in other Democratic-leaning states across the country.

If Brown were serving in another state, he might be a shoo-in for re-election, though he has irked some in the tea party movement for voting with Democrats on financial reform and a jobs bill.

Brown reported nearly $6.8 million in his campaign account at the end of September. Public polling released in mid-October showed better approval ratings than President Barack Obama and senior Sen. John Kerry (D).

Democrats have yet to find a challenger, but any Democrat with moderate name recognition will become an instant threat.

People to watch include Reps. Mike Capuano, Stephen Lynch and former Rep. Marty Meehan. City Year founder Alan Khazei has also been a rumored candidate, as has Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

Missouri

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D)

McCaskill has to watch her back after Republican Rep. Roy Blunt defeated Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan in this year’s Senate race. Both parties agree the state will be a central battleground. McCaskill was narrowly elected to unseat Sen. Jim Talent in 2006, and a rematch in the longtime battleground state is a strong possibility in 2012.

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map of 2012 senate race ratings

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