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Tough Terrain for Senate Democrats

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Sen. Scott Brown faces an uphill battle to keep his seat in heavily Democratic Massachusetts.

Brown has three big problems. He’s a Republican in a state that’s definitely not, he will be on the ballot with an incumbent Democratic president whose presence will substantially increase turnout from Brown’s January 2010 special election victory, and he’s a top Democratic target this election cycle. That means the party and its allies will be willing to spend significant sums of money on an effort to unseat him.

But Brown also has some serious advantages 16 months out: He’s a likable incumbent who has maintained his popularity, he has carefully crafted a relatively moderate course during his tenure in the Senate, a top-tier opponent has yet to emerge, and he had $9.6 million in cash on hand at the end of June. The contours of this race, which remains a true tossup, have yet to be fully revealed.

The reason for that is Democrats have yet to coalesce behind a candidate. Brown’s declared Democratic opponents (there are seven) include Newton Mayor Setti Warren, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, activist Bob Massie and state Rep. Tom Conroy.

Khazei, who lost the 2010 primary to Martha Coakley, raised $933,000. But that figure paled in comparison to the more than $2 million that Brown raked in during the second quarter.

Brown won his seat in part because national Democrats were unprepared, and Coakley was not running a strong statewide campaign. The party won’t be caught off guard this time around, which is one reason leaders are looking to Harvard University law professor Elizabeth Warren as a possible contender. Warren has met with top Democrats and many leaders of the Bay State delegation, and she even had a phone chat with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.).

Now that Warren won’t be permanently named to lead the new watchdog organization that she helped start, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, expect more public pressure from Democrats who want her to jump into the primary. Liberals like Warren, and she has national name recognition thanks in part to her frequent television appearances, including as a guest on “The Daily Show.”

Should Warren get in, the dynamics of the race will change, but it won’t be a lock for Democrats by any means.

Missouri

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) | Tossup

Given the uphill battle that she faces and her missteps earlier this year, McCaskill actually appears to be in pretty good shape 16 months before voters in the Show-Me State decide whether to send her back to Washington, D.C., for a second term.

You would think McCaskill would be in more trouble because the state has been trending Republican and she only narrowly won in 2006. Republicans have made her one of their top targets, and she did not do herself any favors by billing taxpayers for nonofficial travel on her private plane. But over the past few months, McCaskill paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes on that plane and vowed to sell it.

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