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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.

If Talent forgoes the Senate race, a number of other Republicans will have to make a choice between running against McCaskill or Gov. Jay Nixon. Ann Wagner told the KMOX radio station in St. Louis she is “seriously considering” a statewide run. Wagner was chairwoman of Blunt’s Senate campaign after serving as ambassador to Luxembourg and as co-chairman of the Republican National Committee. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a former state Senator and aide to the late Rep. Bill Emerson (R), has also been mentioned as a potential statewide candidate, as has Sarah Steelman, the former state treasurer and state Senator who lost a bid for governor in 2008.

McCaskill had $614,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30. The presidential race will be a factor in the state in 2012; Democrats have long attempted to put Missouri within reach, and President Barack Obama’s team came close in 2008. Obama lost Missouri to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by fewer than 4,000 votes out of 2.9 million cast. That result marked only the second time since 1904 that the Show-Me State did not vote with the White House victor.

The Democratic National Committee is considering St. Louis for the location of the 2012 national convention, a move they hope will tilt the state in their favor.

Nebraska

Sen. Ben Nelson (D)

After promising that he will run for re-election as a Democrat, Nelson, a moderate who is the only Democrat in Nebraska’s Congressional delegation, established himself as one of Republicans’ top targets in 2012.

The Nebraska Republican Party took a poll on Election Day and the following day that showed only 36 percent of Nebraskans thought Nelson deserved re-election, and 55 percent said it was time for someone new.

Nelson had $1.4 million in his campaign account at the end of September, and in December 2009 ran his first 2012 campaign ad to explain his position on health care.

Nelson got a break when popular Gov. Dave Heineman (R) declined to run against him, but Attorney General Jon Bruning got in immediately after Heineman’s announcement. Bruning explored a run for the Senate in 2007 when Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) began looking into a presidential run, but when Hagel retired, Bruning deferred to former Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns, who ultimately won the seat.

Don Stenberg, who was elected state treasurer on Nov. 2, has also said he may run against Nelson. Nelson defeated Stenberg, a former attorney general, in the 2000 general election. Stenberg also lost Senate primaries in 2006 and 1996. State Auditor Mike Foley hasn’t ruled out a run.

Nevada

Sen. John Ensign (R)

Speculation had been rampant over whether Ensign would run for re-election, but the scandal-plagued Republican told reporters this week he plans to seek a third term. Ensign, under federal investigation regarding an affair he had with a former staffer, has blown through much of his campaign cash to help pay for his legal fees and had just $280,000 in the bank and owed more than $20,000 as of Sept. 30.

The top Republican waiting in the wings is Rep. Dean Heller, who won a third term on Nov. 2 and would be considered a formidable statewide candidate. The Las Vegas Sun’s Jon Ralston wrote recently that Ensign would be “flattened” by Heller in a primary, though a poll taken in October by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Ensign beating potential GOP rivals.

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map of 2012 senate race ratings

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