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Home-State Colleagues, Election-Year Foes

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is one of a handful of Senators up for re-election in 2012 whose home state's other Senator is from the opposing party.

At least eight targeted Senate races feature Members in split-party delegations. Most in this group are Democrats, and most are running in either decidedly conservative states or swing states. But a few are Republicans, including Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), who serves with Sen. John Kerry (D), and Sen. John Ensign, although the Nevadan is not assured of emerging from his state’s primary. He serves with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D).

Democrats expect Kerry to engage in the race against Brown and be helpful to the eventual Democratic nominee. But Massachusetts’ senior Senator declined to comment, saying he “can’t do any politics right now.”

Brown reacted similarly in discussing whether Kerry’s expected role in helping to defeat him would affect their interaction. “I’m so focused on 2011. John and I have a good relationship, and I’m trusting it will stay that way,” he said.

Reid and Ensign observe a nonaggression pact that prevents them from hurling negative rhetoric at each other in public. It does not prevent them from campaigning on behalf of each other’s opponents or participating in other political activities, such as fundraising and strategizing. It remains unclear whether Reid will be more active on behalf of the Democratic nominee in the event that Ensign is beaten in the GOP primary by Rep. Dean Heller, who is preparing to jump into the Senate race.

A Democratic Senate aide said Reid would continue to honor his pact with Ensign but would ensure that the Nevada Democratic Party “has the resources it needs to compete in all races.” The effective voter-turnout infrastructure that Reid assembled for his 2010 race is still in place and ready to be utilized for in 2012.

“He campaigned for Jack Carter in my last election; I campaigned for Sharron Angle,” Ensign said, explaining his nonaggression pact with Reid. “We just don’t say anything negative. Our agreement is just not to criticize each other.”

The Democrats potentially under fire from home-state Republican colleagues include Sen. Sherrod Brown, who represents Ohio with Sen. Rob Portman; Sen. Bob Casey, who serves Pennsylvania with Sen. Pat Toomey; Sen. Herb Kohl, who represents Wisconsin with Sen. Ron Johnson; Sen. Ben Nelson, who serves Nebraska with Sen. Mike Johanns; and Sen. Bill Nelson, who represents Florida with Sen. Marco Rubio.

Brown worked hard on behalf of Portman’s Democratic opponent in the 2010 campaign, and their relationship is still rocky. Portman confirmed in a brief interview that he would support Brown’s GOP opponent and hinted that his support could be extensive.

Rubio has a key fundraising role with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and is expected to raise money for the state party and campaign for Nelson’s opponent and the entire Florida GOP ticket in 2012, according to an aide to the Sunshine State freshman.

The Nebraska delegation could generate a particular amount of election-year friction. Johanns and Nelson, both former governors and not always on the friendliest of terms, are playing nice right now. Nelson said the two are cordial during the Nebraska Congressional delegation’s weekly Wednesday morning breakfast, and Johanns said their offices work together well despite numerous policy differences, including on the health care reform law that caused Nelson so much political damage with Cornhusker State voters.

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