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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.

Regardless of the opponent, Menendez will have the advantage. He knows how to win an election, having served in Congress since 1993. And he has a healthy cash reserve, reporting $2.3 million in his campaign account at the end of September.

North Dakota

Sen. Kent Conrad (D)

The defeat of Conrad in 2012 would be the culmination of North Dakota Republicans’ efforts over more than two decades to flip the state’s federal offices. Conrad is the only Democrat left in North Dakota’s Congressional delegation, which had been entirely Democratic since 1987. Gov. John Hoeven (R) won a landslide Senate victory and will replace retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan (D). State Rep. Rick Berg (R) defeated Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D).

The list of potential Conrad challengers reflects the deep bench Republicans have built in North Dakota. After Hoeven’s election to the Senate, Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple will become acting governor. Dalrymple will appoint former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley to replace him as lieutenant governor. In 1992 when he was a state Representative, Dalrymple lost the special election for Senate to Conrad after Democratic Sen. Quentin Burdick’s death.

Other potential Republican candidates include Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Bismarck Mayor John Warford and Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson.


Sen. Sherrod Brown (D)

A magnifying glass will be on Ohio in 2012, when President Barack Obama and his GOP opponent are sure to spend money and manpower on the key electoral state. Brown will be running his first re-election bid. He was active in the 2010 cycle, helping multiple Democrats who lost their House seats, Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and defeated Gov. Ted Strickland. Brown has a $1.4 million campaign war chest.

Being floated as potential challengers are Rep. Jim Jordan, considered a GOP rising star, and Lt. Gov.-elect Mary Taylor. A dark horse contender is former Sen. Mike DeWine, whom Brown unseated in 2006. DeWine was just elected attorney general.

Depending on his challenger, Brown will likely be considered among the more vulnerable Democrats in a tough cycle for the party. In 2010, Republicans won the governorship and made major gains in the state Legislature, and former Rep. Rob Portman (R) trounced Fisher in the open-seat Senate race.


Sen. Bob Casey (D)

Casey is among the Democratic incumbents in Democrat-leaning states who should be safe in 2012. But if the recent cycle taught us anything, it’s that few Democrats are safe in a cycle where the national environment trumps local concerns.

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map of 2012 senate race ratings




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