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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.

McCaskill’s two declared GOP opponents, Rep. Todd Akin and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, have had their share of early problems. Akin, who announced his Senate bid in May, recently told a conservative radio program, “At the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God,” a remark he was forced to clarify. He raised just more than half a million dollars in the second quarter.

Steelman — who spent more than she raised in the second quarter, according to the Associated Press — has struggled with lackluster fundraising and staff shake-ups. She has had difficulty building momentum but recently brought on new staff, so watch to see whether the campaign can right itself during the third quarter. McCaskill raised almost $1.4 million and had $2.8 million in cash on hand at the end of June.

The GOP has allies in its aim of unseating McCaskill.

Powerful conservative group American Crossroads is already running television ads against McCaskill, a harbinger of the abundance of independent money that is likely to flow into the Senate race. “Defining her early as a big-spending liberal ... will pay dividends as the race heats up next year,” a Crossroads spokesman said.

The very nature of the Show-Me State’s split politics, with deeply conservative voters outstate and liberal bastions in St. Louis and Kansas City, means that this contest will likely remain a tossup until the bitter end.

Montana

Sen. Jon Tester (D) | Tossup

There is little doubt that a year from now the race for Tester’s seat will remain among the most competitive in the country, and it has the potential to be one of the nastiest.

There was little surprise when Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) entered the race in February, but his candidacy immediately elevated the Big Sky State contest to be a top race. The most recent public polling showed the contest is within the margin of error, which is where it is expected to stay.

There is no love lost between the campaigns of Tester and Rehberg, who each have been attacking the other’s Congressional record for months already. This was one of the first states where GOP-affiliated outside group Crossroads GPS launched TV ads, and it will likely see independent expenditures from both Senatorial campaign committees.

Tester has had two strong fundraising quarters already, including raising $1.3 million from April to June and ending the second quarter with $2.3 million in cash on hand. Rehberg raised about $915,000 and had $1.5 million on hand at the end of June.

Whether President Barack Obama’s campaign has much presence in the state could have an effect on voter turnout, but the Senate race should not be compared to Obama’s ability to win Montana.

As the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics website reported, since 1912 a Democrat was elected to the Senate in Montana nine times out of 17 cycles when a Republican presidential nominee carried the state. That figure is easily the most of any state.

Nebraska

Sen. Ben Nelson (D) | Tossup

Nelson remains one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election this cycle. This makes him a popular opponent in the Cornhusker State — so much so that he attracted yet another GOP challenger last month.

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