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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.

Right now, though, the state is mired in a series of recall elections that are sucking up enormous political energy and resources from both parties. Democrats expect to take control of the state Senate next month through six recall elections. They also plan to put Gov. Scott Walker (R), who was elected last year, back on the ballot in November 2012 for a recall. Feingold also could consider challenging Walker.

The Badger State promises to be one of the more unique and interesting battleground states. Amazingly, it won’t be the top race in the state, but holding the seat of retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is crucial to Democrats’ ability to keep its majority in the Senate.

Leans Democratic: The Hold-Steady Four


Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Leans Democratic

Nelson is the type of guy who mostly goes along and gets along without making waves or ruffling feathers. It’s a strategy that paid dividends during his previous two elections for Senate. His strategy appears to be working, at least until a GOP frontrunner emerges.

Since the previous quarter, the GOP field against Nelson has both expanded and contracted. There are now four declared contenders seeking the Republican nomination: former Sen. George LeMieux, former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, retired Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Ruth’s Chris Steak House CEO Craig Miller.

State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who was a fundraising favorite and brought in more than $2.6 million in the first quarter of the year, abruptly dropped out of the race Monday, citing conflicting legislative and political responsibilities.

Hasner has been angling to be seen as the grass-roots conservative candidate in the mold of his former colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Though he only raised about $560,000 in the second quarter, Hasner has nabbed endorsements from national conservative figures such as blogger Erick Erickson, radio host Mark Levin and the influential conservative group FreedomWorks. In a preview of one of the themes voters can expect to see in the primary, Hasner has repeatedly highlighted LeMieux’s ties to former Gov. Charlie Crist (I), who appointed him to a 16-month term in the Senate.

LeMieux, a practicing lawyer with ties to Washington, D.C., raised more than $950,000 in the second quarter and has been quietly building support in campaign appearances around the state. Whether he’ll be able to shed his connection to Crist in the eyes of primary voters over the next year remains to be seen.

Recent polling has shown Nelson with a comfortable lead over all his potential rivals, and he remains popular back home.

For now, without a strong opponent having emerged from the GOP pack or a potent narrative against Nelson, who had more than $6 million in cash on hand at the end of June, Roll Call Politics is removing this race from the most competitive Tossup category.


Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) | Leans Democratic

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra’s decision to challenge Stabenow makes this race competitive, although the Senator still holds the upper hand.

For months, Republicans sought a Stabenow challenger and came up empty as potential candidates, including Hoekstra initially, declined to run. It looked as if Stabenow could get a pass this cycle.

But Hoekstra changed his mind this week, giving Republicans a big boost in the state.

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