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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.

In 2006, Webb unseated Republican Sen. George Allen by 9,329 votes of 2.3 million cast, delivering the Senate to the Democrats. Allen is flirting with a rematch, and his office won’t say his timeline for making a decision. But Allen, a former governor, has remained active, campaigning for Republicans this fall. Should Allen run, he’d be the clear favorite. But if he opts against a second try for his old seat, expect Republicans to look to incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Rep. Randy Forbes or former Rep. Tom Davis.

Webb spokesman Will Jenkins said his boss is “giving the matter proper thought and consideration” before announcing his intentions. But Webb sent a signal to supporters recently by granting an interview to the conservative-leaning Real Clear Politics, telling a reporter that he’d warned President Barack Obama the health care debate “was going to be a disaster.” A former Republican who served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration, Webb also openly worried about the “transactional nature” of the Democratic party. There’s been some chatter among Virginia’s influential Democratic bloggers that Webb might deserve a primary from the left, talk that picked up after Webb’s team widely distributed the Real Clear Politics article.

Washington

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D)

Armed with money and a well-known name, Republican Dino Rossi fell 4 points short of defeating Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in a good cycle for Republicans nationwide. So it’s still a little early to find a top challenger to the state’s other Senator, Cantwell.

The top Republican challenger could be Attorney General Rob McKenna, whom one GOP strategist in the state called the “great hope.” However, he is believed to be eyeing a gubernatorial run in 2012.

Republicans whose names will be discussed include Reps. Dave Reichert and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, as well as tea party favorite Clint Didier, a former Washington Redskins tight end who failed to advance past this year’s Senate primary despite earning an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

2006 ended up being a relatively easy re-election for Cantwell, who at first faced a serious primary challenge from the left but managed to fend off the best-known candidate and hire him to work for her campaign.

Wisconsin

Sen. Herb Kohl (D)

Kohl may take Republican Ron Johnson’s punishing win over fellow Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold as a warning. Kohl, 75, has said he’ll make a decision about whether to run for re-election in the next few months. He had just $26,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30, a sign he might be looking toward retirement after four terms.

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map of 2012 senate race ratings

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