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An Early Look at 2012 ‘Elite Eight’ Battleground

In that case, Brodnitz says, the main question is whether a candidate can “create a distinct profile” in a state, allowing him or her to swim against a strong current in the state.

And, Brodnitz adds, if a presidential candidate goes up on TV early in one of these states, the Senate candidates in the state may also be forced to hit the airwaves early and heavily or else fear being defined by the presidential race.

Another parliamentary election would be a particular problem for less well-defined incumbents, such as Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), or for a Senator who represents normally hostile territory, such as Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Voters in Michigan showed just how angry they were in 2010, and unless things improve in the economy, they may be waiting to do so again when President Barack Obama seeks re-election.

For Nelson, the problem is a large state with many media markets, a slew of new voters and an abundance of senior citizens.

Seniors, of course, swung from heavily Democratic in 2006 and 2008 to strongly Republican last year, and another seniors “wave,” for one party or the other, could guarantee Nelson’s re-election or defeat.

Brown can win re-election if voters focus on his service or compare him to his Democratic opponent, but not if they see the Massachusetts Senate race as nothing more than an extension of the 2012 White House race.

Another Democratic consultant I talked with offered a particularly stark assessment of the effect of another wave election on individual Senate candidates: “There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but if we do have another parliamentary election, it may not matter what individual candidates and campaigns do.”

Keep an eye on these “Elite Eight” to see how the cycle develops.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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