Council for a Livable World Senate Election 2012 Roundup
At this early stage, it is impossible to make realistic predictions about many of the 2012 Senate contests.
The key numbers: 21 Democrat seats are up for election in 2012 plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
There are only 10 seats for the Republicans to defend.
Much depends on the mood of the country in November 2012. In November 2006, the electorate turned on the Republicans. It happened again in November 2008. In November 2010, the electorate turned on the Democrats.
The mood of the country depends in a major way on the economy. A clearly growing economy that drives the unemployment rate down will produce different results than an economy remaining in the doldrums with unemployment staying stubbornly high.
The Presidential contest in 2012 will play a major role in Senate races as well. A strong Obama campaign against a weak Republican nominee will help Democratic candidates while a successful Republican effort to make Obama a one-term President will help.
Much also depends on which incumbents decide to retire and whether strong challengers decided to run.
And of course there will be surprises along the way, as there were in the 2010 campaigns.
Two historical oddities:
1. Two Senators have to run in 2012 after having just run in 2010: Gillibrand in New York and Manchin in West Virginia, who both won special elections for partial terms and now have to run again for the full term.
2. There could be two or more rematches from 2006: McCaskill (D) vs. Talent (R) in Missouri and Webb (D) vs. Allen (R) in Virginia.
Arizona: The Grand Canyon state could be a battleground state in the presidential election, but incumbent Sen. Jon Kyl (R), who was first elected in 1994, is in good shape for re-election. There have been some suggestions that Kyl is considering retirement.
California: Republicans ran two strong candidates for governor and Senator in 2010, but both lost handily. If Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) could win re-election by 10 points in 2010, her colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) will be even more heavily favored despite the fact that she turns 79 in 2012.
Connecticut: This state should produce one of the major battles of 2012. Four-term incumbent Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I) faces tough hurdles in 2012. In 2006, he lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont but then won the general election as an independent. Lieberman has to decide whether to run as a Democrat, a Republican or an independent, but all three paths look treacherous for him. Several Democrats are sure to run and Republicans promise to field a strong candidate this time, as opposed to in 2006.
Delaware: Two-term incumbent Sen. Tom Carper (D) in great political shape and should have no trouble winning re-election. His margin of victory in 2006 was 41 points.
Florida: Clearly Republicans are gunning for two-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D), the Democrats last statewide official. Republicans made major gains in the state in the 2010 election, including four new House seats, and hope to extend their winning streak. Appointed Sen. George LeMieux (R), who left office in January 2011, is likely to be one of several challengers. Early polls show Nelson ahead, but not comfortably.
Hawaii: Hawaii remains a strongly Democratic state, making 86-year old, three-term Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) a strong front-runner against all candidates except for former Governor Linda Lingle (R). Lingle left office in 2010 and promised a decision on running around mid-2011.
Indiana: Incumbent Senator Richard Lugar (R) has been in office since 1976, and had said he will run again. The state is strongly Republican, and the GOP captured a Democratic Senate seat in 2010 by 15 points. The only way that Lugar loses is by a challenge from his right by a Tea Party candidate. Democrats may run a strong candidate in the case that Lugar is knocked off in a primary.
Maine: The Tea Party is threatening to run against the terminally moderate Sen. Olympia Snowe (R). In a general election, she is unbeatable. She is popular among independents and many Democrats. But early polling shows the Republican Party is disaffected with her, with only 29% of the party supporting her re-election while 63% would support a more conservative challenger. The Tea Party-endorsed Republican governor Paul LePage has pledged to back her re-election.
Maryland: This state remained firmly blue in the 2010 election and incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin (D) should easily win re-election.
Massachusetts: This heavily Democratic state shocked the political world with the January 2010 special election when it elected Sen. Scott Brown (R) in a harbinger of GOP victories to come. However, Democrats scored solid wins in the Bay State later in 2010, and are salivating over one of their few pick-up opportunities in 2012. Still, Brown has a strong favorable rating and had $6.8 million in his campaign treasury in 2010.
Michigan: Republicans scored solid gains in the state in 2010 and hope to strongly contest the seat of two-term incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). She won her first re-election in 2006 with 57% of the vote. Early polling indicates that a close race could shape up, but the incumbent heads into 2012 as the favorite.
Minnesota: The state has been the scene of several close elections in recent years that have forced lengthy recounts. But first-term incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) won in 2006 by 20 points and she continues to be popular. December 2010 polling showed her with solid leads against several Republicans. She will be strongly favored.
Mississippi: In this very conservative state Sen. Roger Wicker (R), who was voted in during a 2008 special election to replace Sen. Trent Lott, should coast to re-election.
Missouri: Expect a close contest in this state evenly divided between the two major parties. President Obama lost Missouri by fewer than 4,000 votes out of 2.9 million cast. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) ousted Sen. Jim Talent (R) by three percentage points, and Talent is considering seeking a rematch. The GOP made major gains in 2010. Sarah Steelman, the former state treasurer and state Senator, has said she will run, and other GOP candidates are circling in the water.
Montana: Sen. John Tester (D) upset an incumbent Republican Senator in 2006 by fewer than 4,000 votes and is a top Republican target in 2012. President Obama is very unpopular in the state. Six-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) will be the frontrunner for the nomination should he decide to run. Businessman Steve Daines (R) announced his candidacy shortly after the 2010 elections.
Nebraska: Republicans think that the Cornhusker state provides them with one of their best chances for a pickup in 2012. Moderate incumbent Sen. Ben Nelson (D) is the only non-Republican in the delegation. He ran campaign-style television ads in December 2009 to explain his health care vote. The 2012 race in Nebraska has started early: Attorney General Jon Bruning (R) tossed his hat into the ring in December 2010.
Nevada: Sen. John Ensign (R), has won two elections by large margins, but his luck may have run out. Ensign admitted in June 2009 to an extramarital affair with the wife of his campaign manager and then had her family paid a great deal of money. While many thought he would retire, Ensign has announced his bid for re-election. Although the Justice Department has ended its investigation of the incumbent, his campaign treasury has been severely depleted by huge legal bills and a Senate ethics investigation continues. Members of Congress of both parties are eyeing the seat, including Rep. Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D).
New Jersey: Sen. Robert Menendez (D) has so-so approval ratings and his state is mired in a recession. Still, the Republican bench in the state is not deep and the incumbent had $2.3 million in his campaign account as of September 2010. Republicans will angle for the seat, but Menendez remains favored.
New Mexico: Incumbent Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) has served in the Senate since 1982 and won his last election by 40 points. He may not have that kind of margin in 2012, but should still cruise to re-election.
New York: The best chance to defeat appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) came in 2010, but she easily won the special election to replace Hillary Clinton and should have no problem in 2012.
North Dakota: Republicans made major gains in the state in 2010, winning a Senate seat and the House seat. Incumbent Sen. Kent Conrad (D) has not had a serious contest since 1986, but could face one in 2012.
Ohio: The Buckeye State will again be contested closely at the presidential level and almost surely for Senate as well. In 2010, Republicans won the governorship, one U.S. Senate seat and five House seats. First-term incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) is expected to face a strong challenge. Brown’s 2006 opponent, Attorney General Mike DeWine, has said he is not seeking a rematch, but there will be other strong GOP contenders.
Pennsylvania: This is another state where Republicans made major gains in 2010. However, first-term incumbent Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D), who beat incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum (R) by 18 percentage points in 2006, remains popular. Still, the contest could be close.
Rhode Island: If Democrats don’t do well here in 2012, then a nationwide Republican landslide is in order. First-term incumbent Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) should win re-election, particularly because the GOP has a weak bench of candidates.
Tennessee: The only significant challenge first-term incumbent Sen. Bob Corker (R) faces if any could come from a Tea Party opponent. Democrats in the state were wiped out in 2010. Corker won his first election against Harold Ford, Jr. by six points.
Texas: Coming off a failed run against Rick Perry for the Republican nomination for governor, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) announced on January 13, 2011 that she will not seek re-election in 2012. In a message to her supporters she stated – “That should give the people of Texas ample time to consider who my successor will be.” Ample time to consider a whole slew of Senate hopefuls including: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Sec. of State Roger Williams, Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones, Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, and Democratic former Comptroller John Sharp.
Utah: After the defeat of Sen. Bob Bennett (R) in a Republican nominating convention in 2010, long-time Senator Orrin Hatch (R) is next on the Tea Party hit list. Hatch is working hard to prove that he is different than Bennett, but it may not matter. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) could be his primary challenger. There will not be a serious Democratic competitor.
Vermont: There is one official Socialist in the U.S. Senate and his name is Sen. Bernard Sanders (I). Sanders, who won by 30 points in 2006, should coast to re-election.
Virginia: First-term Sen. Jim Webb (D), who upset Sen. George Allen (R), is playing Hamlet. The incumbent, who was drafted to run in 2006, is uncertain whether to run again. Not so for Allen, who is spoiling for a return to the Senate. Early polling shows a close contest ahead, although other Republicans may run even if Allen does.
Washington: In 2010, Sen. Patty Murray (D) withstood the Republican tide, and there is no reason to believe that incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) will be seriously threatened.
West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) won a special election in 2010 to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D). Manchin was a highly popular governor, and won his Senate seat by 11 percentage points. While Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) would be a serious competitor; Manchin should be okay in 2012.
Wisconsin: While Democrat Russ Feingold was ousted in 2010 after three terms, 75-year old Sen. Herb Kohl (D) will be overwhelmingly favored if he runs again. Although Kohl has little money in his campaign treasury, he largely self-funds his re-election campaigns.
Wyoming: If the Democratic Party in the state runs a candidate, hardly anyone will notice. Incumbent Sen. John Barrasso (R) won a special election in 2008 by 46 points and has a lock on re-election in 2012.