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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.

State Sen. Deb Fischer jumped into the GOP primary with state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg. Although Fischer has yet to prove herself as a viable statewide candidate, Republicans expect her candidacy to have an effect on the primary results.

Bruning has the edge so far. He made all the right moves these past few months for the GOP primary — except for fundraising. He stockpiled big-name endorsements from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and the Tea Party Express. The leader of Nebraska’s unicameral Legislature backed Bruning, who strategically timed that announcement just a couple of days after Fisher entered the race.

But Bruning’s fundraising proved disappointing, with just $342,000 raised in the second quarter. He still has $1.3 million in the bank thanks to the massive $1.5 million that he raised earlier this year, but his showing is not encouraging for Republicans.

Nelson continues to fundraise at a steady clip. He raised $911,000 in the second quarter, bringing the total in his war chest to $2.9 million.

Fisher entered the race too late in June to post any meaningful fundraising. Stenberg raised just $46,000 in the second quarter, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

Nevada

Sen. Dean Heller (R) | Tossup

Democrats are trying not to have a primary problem in Nevada, where wealthy Las Vegas businessman Byron Georgiou has stockpiled almost $1.5 million through the first two quarters of the year. Much of that came from Georgiou himself, while Rep. Shelley Berkley raked in $1.2 million in the second quarter, leaving her with $2.5 million in the bank through June.

Berkley has the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and, more importantly, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Reid is doing all he can to ensure Berkley is the Democratic nominee next November against Heller, who took office in May after being appointed to replace Sen. John Ensign (R).

The seat could be vital to the Democratic Party’s chances of holding the Senate majority. Along with Massachusetts, it’s one of Democrats’ top pickup opportunities and could marginalize likely losses elsewhere.

Reid has built the most well-respected state party in the country, and with President Barack Obama’s campaign targeting Nevada as a crucial battleground, Berkley will have an unmatched turnout operation on her side.

But so far Heller is holding his own in fundraising against Berkley, bringing in more than $1 million in the second quarter and holding $2.3 million in the bank through June. And Republicans in the state are heavily motivated not to let Democrats control both Senate seats.

New Mexico

Open seat (D) | Tossup

New Mexico has two potentially competitive primaries that feature some interesting parallels. Rep. Martin Heinrich, who represents the Albuquerque-based 1st district, was recruited to run for the seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D), and he is the favorite for the Democratic nomination over state Auditor Hector Balderas.

The Republican primary features the former 1st district Congresswoman, Heather Wilson, who is being challenged for the nomination by another downballot statewide officeholder, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez.

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