Tag Archives: Jeff Bingaman

Two Polls; Two Drop-Outs

NM-1 Poll

Public Policy Polling surveyed the upcoming open New Mexico Senate race (Dec. 10-12; 500 New Mexico registered voters; 309 New Mexico Democratic primary voters). Their latest data gives Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) a 47-40 percent edge over former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1). If Lt. Gov. John Sanchez were to become the Republican nominee, Heinrich would beat him 48-37 percent.

In the Democratic primary between Heinrich and state Auditor Hector Balderas, the congressman leads that battle 47-30 percent. The Republican primary featuring Wilson and Sanchez was not tested.

The results are about what one would expect at this time. New Mexico is a relatively competitive state, much more so at the presidential level than in the state contests, and it leans to the Democrats. Normally, the Democrat holds the lead early and the Republican gains strength as the election draws near. The fact that Rep. Heinrich only leads Ms. Wilson by seven points in a small-sample poll and still falls below the 50 percent mark suggests that this could become a highly competitive general election campaign. The New Mexico seat is open because Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is retiring after five terms.

OR-1 Poll

Public Policy Polling was also in the field in Oregon’s 1st Congressional District for the upcoming special election to be decided on Jan. 31. Their poll (Dec. 13-14; 979 OR-1 likely special election voters) gives former state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (D) an expected 52-41 percent lead over 2010 Republican nominee Rob Cornilles, a local sporting goods executive.

The data breaks down exactly as one would predict: Democrats overwhelmingly support Bonamici (89-6 percent), while Republicans are just as strong for Cornilles (88-5 percent). Liberals and conservatives each strongly break toward the Democratic and Republican candidate, respectively. The two points that prove interesting and potentially determinative – and there is one plus for each candidate – are that women are going heavily for Bonamici (57-36 percent) while men break evenly (47-47 percent), and Independents are trending toward Cornilles (46-40 percent).

The fact that the district is overwhelmingly Democratic and the party apparatus and liberal special interest groups are spending heavily for Bonamici while the Republican/conservative side has yet to step up for Cornilles, suggests that the former will handily win this seat if the current trends continue.

The position is open because Rep. David Wu (D-OR-1) resigned earlier in the year.

DSCC Chair Patty Murray’s Favorites

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) chair Patty Murray (D-WA) made some statements that clearly indicates who she believes are her party’s strongest candidates in three key campaigns when she spoke during an informal session with reporters.

The senator stopped short of committing the DSCC to officially support and help any particular candidate in the Democratic primaries, but did offer her personal endorsement to a pair of open-seat contenders and spoke glowingly of a third.

Murray said that Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and Hawaii Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) are the best Democratic candidates for their states, that she personally supports both, and expects each to win their own general elections.

Not surprisingly, Murphy and Hirono’s opponents shot back when hearing the news. Former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz responded to Murray’s statements by saying that, “My opponent is the favorite of K Street, and my supporters are on Main Street.”

Former Hawaii Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2) responded in a similar way about the senator’s comments praising Hirono. He claims that his top opponent is “selling her candidacy to the DC insiders.”

Murray also praised Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) as being the superior candidate in the New Mexico open-seat contest. She stopped short of personally endorsing him, however, and again did not commit any DSCC resources to Heinrich or any of the aforementioned candidates.

The New Mexico congressman is running against state Auditor Hector Balderas, who will likely draw well in the state’s substantial Hispanic community. Since these votes are critically important to the Democrats in the general election, both Murray and Heinrich are treading very carefully with respect to how they draw a contrast with Balderas.

The frankness of Murray’s comments is a bit unusual for a major party committee chair, particularly this early in the election cycle. Normally, the official response is to remain publicly neutral even if they help particular contenders behind the scenes. Often times public endorsements from Washington political committees do more harm than good for the people the party establishment wants to help, so they usually keep as silent as possible.

There is no question that Murphy, Hirono, and Heinrich are the early favorites in their respective states. If the election were today, each would almost assuredly win the nomination, so it makes sense that, from a general election “winability” perspective, Murray would want to further their candidacies. The fact that she is at least personally on board is a clear signal to outside liberal groups and labor union financial communities that they should be backing each campaign.

Much time remains in each of the three situations, so it is curious that Sen. Murray would be publicly picking favorites this early. The New Mexico primary is scheduled for June 5th. Hawaii and Connecticut do not choose nominees until Aug. 11 and 14, respectively.

In the Land of Enchantment, Heinrich and Balderas are fighting for the right to succeed retiring five-term Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez are dueling for the Republican nomination. The Democrats begin the campaign as early favorites, but this race could become a toss-up before people go to the polls next November.

The Democrats also appear strong in Connecticut, though ex-Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT-4) does match-up well with Bysiewicz in early ballot test polling. Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman is retiring.

The Hawaii situation may be different. With former Gov. Linda Lingle in the race and already the consensus Republican candidate in a late primary state, it is important that the Democrats avoid a divisive nomination fight. With Case having been on the ballot so many times before in the state (he’s previously had runs for governor, US senator, and three times as a representative for the US House), he has the potential of causing Hirono problems; so Murray attempting to give Rep. Hirono a boost should help the party’s general election standing. Four-term Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is retiring.

New Mexico Senate Primary Numbers

Public Policy Polling just released new data (June 23-26; 400 “usual” Republican primary voters; 400 “usual” Democratic voters) regarding the New Mexico Senate race. The firm surveyed both the Democratic and Republican primary elections, each of which is likely to be competitive.

For the Ds, two-term Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) begins the Senatorial campaign with a 47-24 percent lead over state Auditor Hector Balderas (D) as the two battle for their party’s nomination. On the Republican side, former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) has a similar 52-24 percent advantage over Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R). Should these numbers hold up for the remainder of the primary cycle Heinrich and Wilson will square off in the general election in what could become a hotly contested campaign that attracts great national attention.

All of the major candidates in the Senatorial race have relatively strong favorability ratings as each contender has higher positive scores than negative. Five-term Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is retiring, therefore creating the open seat.
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New Mexico Senate Poll Shows a Tight Race

Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of the New Mexico electorate (June 23-26; 732 registered New Mexico voters) regarding the open seat race to replace the retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D). The results show Democrats with a measurable advantage, but in a much tighter contest than recent New Mexico voting history would likely yield.

Turning to the ballot test questions, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1), an announced Senatorial candidate, out-duels former 1st district Rep. and Senatorial candidate Heather Wilson (R) by just five percentage points, 47-42 percent. He leads Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) by a similar 45-39 percent. State Auditor Hector Banderas (D) scores in the same neighborhood as Heinrich against the two Republicans.

Interestingly, relating to job approval and personal popularity, the data shows the two Democratic candidate posting an average +5 points in positive territory, which are mediocre scores, while the two Republican contenders are upside down by the same margin.

The eventual Democratic nominee should win this open seat, but Republicans still have the ability of making Land of Enchantment statewide races close. The PPP numbers suggest this race could become highly competitive.
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Senate Update: One In, One Out

Two U.S. Senate announcements were made over the weekend. In New Mexico, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) released a video saying he is running for the retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s (D) open seat. One state to the west in Arizona, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) also made an official announcement, but a much different one. He won’t run statewide next year.

Heinrich’s electronic release, featuring the congressman cooking a meal for his family in their home, emphasizes his commitment to working families and job creation. His decision to run statewide means the marginal 1st congressional district will become an open seat, and highly competitive battles are expected for both the Senate and the House.

Mr. Heinrich stating his political intentions early in the election cycle means the New Mexico map drawers (Democrats control the legislature; Republicans have the governor’s office) can radically change his congressional seat if they so desire. The Land of Enchantment, remaining constant with three U.S. House districts for the ensuing decade, normally features a Democratic northern district encompassing the capital city of Santa Fe (NM-3), and a more Republican southern seat (NM-2), again represented by Rep. Steve Pearce (R) after he vacated it in 2008 to run unsuccessfully for the Senate. The 1st, anchored in the state’s dominant Albuquerque metropolitan area, is politically marginal. Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) held the latter seat in the early part of the decade; Heinrich won it in 2008 (56-44%) and was re-elected 52-48% in 2010.

The Albuquerque congressman becomes the first Democrat to officially launch a campaign to succeed Sen. Bingaman, though state Auditor Hector Banderas says he will run. Ms. Wilson is announced for the Republican nomination and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) is also seriously considering running for the seat. The New Mexico Senate race has the potential of becoming one of the hottest campaigns in the country.

State Sen. Eric Griego (D) wasted no time in following Heinrich’s lead. He immediately formed a congressional exploratory committee for the newly opened 1st district, but stopped short of saying that he will run for sure.

In Arizona, the public announcement was different than predicted. It was believed that Rep. Franks would unveil his Senate plans this weekend, which he did, but most thought he would proclaim himself as an official statewide candidate. Instead, he did the opposite, saying, “I have sincerely concluded that mounting a Senate bid at this time would not be what is best for my family, nor what would best allow me to serve my country at this critical time in her history.” Therefore, Mr. Franks will not launch a Senatorial bid and looks to a House re-election campaign in what promises to be a much different 2nd district. Needing to shed 262,615 people, AZ-2 is the second-most over-populated congressional district in the nation.

Franks’ decision, at least for now, leaves 6th district Rep. Jeff Flake as the lone announced Republican in the Senatorial contest to succeed the retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R). Democrats have yet to see an individual come forward to formally state their own candidacy. Once the field is defined, the Arizona Senate race will also become highly competitive.
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Senate Contests Already Taking Shape

With announcements from senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and John Ensign (R-NV) earlier this week that they will retire at the end of the current term, becoming the seventh and eighth such in-cycle senators to do so, it’s time to re-cap who is jockeying for position to succeed all the outgoing incumbents.

Arizona: (Sen. Jon Kyl) – Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) is an announced Senatorial candidate. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ-2) is considering running, as is ex-Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ-1). For the Democrats, Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ-4) says he is looking at the race, but has taken no action to begin assembling a campaign as yet. Not much movement yet for the Dems, but they will have a credible nominee and this will likely become a competitive campaign.

Connecticut: (Sen. Joe Lieberman) – Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) is an announced candidate and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D) will challenge him in the primary. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT-2), after considering the race, says he will seek re-election. Republican 2008 nominee Linda McMahon is considering running, but the Ds have the inside track in what is a reliable state for them.

Hawaii: (Sen. Daniel Akaka) – Democrats are looking at a crowded field, as this is the first open Senate seat there since 1976. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-1) and Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2) are potential candidates. Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and former Honolulu mayor and defeated gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann are other possibilities, as is ex-Rep. Ed Case (D-HI-2). Republicans have two potential candidates in former Gov. Linda Lingle, who is likely to run, and ex-Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI-1). Some Democrats are urging Akaka to resign before the term ends and allow Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) to appoint a replacement, thus avoiding what could become a difficult and nasty Democratic primary late in September of 2012. Akaka, however, has given no signal that he favors such an idea. Much action will occur here in the coming months.

Nevada: (Sen. John Ensign) – Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is the key person here. It is expected that he will soon enter the race. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and 2010 Senatorial nominee Sharron Angle are also making statements of interest, but both could also run for Heller’s open House seat if he does in fact vacate. The Republicans will need a clean primary to win in what is becoming a very marginal state for them. Democrats have several options. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will decide over the summer as to what she will do. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is a likely candidate. Secretary of State Ross Miller is expressing interest but says he wants to see what Berkley will do first before he makes a final decision. Should she run statewide, Miller could become a candidate for what will likely be her open safe Democratic House seat. This race will be in the toss-up category all the way to election day.

New Mexico: (Sen. Jeff Bingaman) – Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) is officially a Republican candidate. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez (R) is making noises that he might run, setting up the same type of toxic primary that defeated Wilson in 2006 and gave Sen. Tom Udall (D) an easy run in the general election. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM-2), the man who defeated Wilson for that nomination and came back to re-claim his House seat against an incumbent in 2010, hasn’t ruled out another Senatorial run, but he’s likely to seek re-election instead. Democratic state Auditor Hector Balderas is virtually certain to run. Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) is a potential candidate. Should Wilson win the primary, this could become a competitive race.

North Dakota: (Sen. Kent Conrad) – Republicans are poised to convert this open seat, just as they did in 2010 with Sen. John Hoeven. The GOP has multiple options, including freshman at-large Rep. Rick Berg, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and Public Utilities Commissioner Brian Kalk, among others. Democrats have a weak bench and are unlikely to field a top tier candidate.

Texas: (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison) – Texas will feature a crowded Republican primary and a sure run-off. In the race are recently resigned Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, and Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, along with former Secretary of State Roger Williams and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is expected to run but will likely announce after the legislative session concludes in June. Democrats have already coalesced around former state Comptroller John Sharp, who has lost his last two statewide races, to current Gov. Rick Perry and Dewhurst, both for Lt. Governor. Republicans have the inside track to holding the seat regardless of who eventually becomes their nominee.

Virginia: (Sen. Jim Webb) – All eyes are on former Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Clearly a person who could become the party’s consensus candidate, Kaine has still not made any announcement and reportedly is truly undecided about running. The more time elapses, the less likely it becomes that Kaine will become a candidate. Defeated Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-5) is someone to whom the Democrats will likely turn without Kaine in the field. Former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA-9) is being mentioned as a potential contender, but he’s unlikely to run. Former Sen. and Gov. George Allen, the man Webb unseated in 2006, is back for another run and should easily capture the Republican nomination. Allen’s numbers are still relatively weak, as he ties Kaine in early polling and leads the others by only small, single-digit margins. This will be another tough Senatorial contest.

To secure a new majority in 2012, Republicans will have to convert at least two of these aforementioned seats and hold all of the ones they are risking. The GOP needs a minimum switch of four net seats to return to majority status. Democrats must defend 23 of the 33 in-cycle races.
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New Mexico’s Bingaman Retires: Another Tough Race to Come

New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) surprisingly announced Friday that he will not seek a sixth term in 2012 even though it appeared he was actively preparing for a new campaign. Mr. Bingaman looked very strong in early polling and was active on the fundraising circuit, raising just under $215,000 for the fourth quarter of 2010 with more than $500,000 cash-on-hand in his campaign account. Already, six senators including Bingaman — three Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent who caucuses with the Dems — have publicly announced their intention to retire at the end of the current term.

Bingaman’s reason for the retirement is simply, “it’s time.” Now the attention turns to who will run in his stead. Democrats will be regarded as favorites to hold the seat because the state’s recent voting history has trended decidedly their way. Before the middle of the past decade, however, New Mexico was commonly regarded as the quintessential swing state since both parties had the ability to win any statewide campaign.

With the 2010 election of Gov. Susana Martinez (R), NM voters may again be signaling that Republicans have a future in the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico is one of just three states (New Hampshire and Iowa were the others) that changed their allegiance repeatedly during the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections. New Mexico voted Democrat, Republican, and Democrat, respectively, in those three campaigns.

No office holder of either party has yet indicated they will run for Sen. Bingaman’s seat, though two relatively unknown GOP businessmen did say they would become candidates. Among Democrats, most of the early talk surrounds the party’s two congressmen, Reps. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and Ben Lujan, Jr. (D-NM-3). Both are serving their second term in the House.

Of course, former Gov. Bill Richardson would be eligible to run, but his job approval and personal numbers are poor, suggesting he would not be the party’s strongest candidate. Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish’s name is also being mentioned, and she’s not ruling out a race, but Martinez comfortably defeated her for governor after the former began as a big favorite. The Dems are assured of having a strong nominee next fall.

On the Republican side, former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) appears to be the party’s strongest candidate on paper. She would be a credible opponent for any Democrat in the general election, especially since she successfully held the very marginal first district over six tight, difficult elections. She ran for the Senate in 2008, but Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM-2) upended her in the Republican primary before he went on to lose to Sen. Tom Udall (D) in a landslide. Though she is not yet saying she’ll run in the open seat, the former congresswoman must be considered a top potential candidate.

For his part, sources close to Rep. Pearce say he will stay in the House after re-gaining in the last election the congressional seat he held thru 2008. Gov. Martinez has already said she will not be a Senatorial candidate. In 2009, the GOP pulled an upset in the Albuquerque mayor’s race by electing businessman Richard Berry. The mayor is another individual whose name will undoubtedly surface as a potential senatorial candidate.

Look for another close, tough Senate race here in 2012. Democrats will begin as decided favorites, but this is certainly a situation that will close and will likely become highly competitive as Election Day 2012 nears.
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Our 2012 Senate Outlook

With three new Senate vacancies already present in the 2012 election cycle, it’s time to update our election grid. Democrats, including the two Independent senators who caucus with the party, must defend 23 states compared to just 10 for Republicans. The GOP needs a net gain of four seats to claim the outright majority, but 13 to reach 60, the number needed to invoke cloture on any issue.

Democratic Seats – Most Vulnerable

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad’s retirement gives the Republicans their best shot at converting a Democratic state. The GOP political bench here is robust and strong, thus the eventual Republican nominee will enter the general election as the favorite.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson, a retirement possibility, is politically damaged. He already trails at least two potential GOP candidates in polling, Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg. Right now, in this very early going, the Republicans are favored to convert the state.

Lean Democrat

Florida – The politically marginal Sunshine State suggests that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will face a highly competitive 2012 election challenge. The GOP field is yet to be determined, but Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) appears to be the only Congressman positioning himself for a run. Right now, Nelson must be viewed as the favorite, but this will become a serious race.

Michigan – The Republican resurgence here, and the early polling, suggests that Sen. Debbie Stabenow has a difficult road to re-election. GOP candidates have yet to come forward, thus the current Lean D rating is attached. Michigan is certainly a state to watch. The presidential election year turnout model is a plus for Stabenow.

Toss-ups

Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill is polling in the dead heat range against former Sen. Jim Talent (R), the man she defeated in 2006. Talent is not a sure candidate, but former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman is. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO-6) also is reportedly considering entering the contest, particularly if Talent remains on the sidelines. All would be very competitive against McCaskill in a state that is trending a bit more Republican during the past two elections.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester can also expect a very competitive GOP challenge in what is normally a Republican state in a presidential year. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) has not yet committed to the Senate race. Former Lt. Governor nominee Steve Daines is an official candidate and actively raising money.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown faces tough sledding presumably against newly elected Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R). Ohio will again assume its normal role as a battleground state for the presidential campaign, which, in 2012, could help Taylor. This may become the most hotly contested Senate race in the country.

Virginia – The actions of former governor and Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine and defeated gubernatorial candidate and ex-DNC chair Terry McAuliffe (both saying they won’t run for Senate in 2012 under any circumstances) suggests that Sen. Jim Webb will seek re-election, even though the incumbent has yet to confirm his intentions. Former senator and governor George Allen (R) will soon announce his candidacy, setting up a re-match with Webb. The Democrat won by 7,231 votes of more than 2.3 million cast five years ago. Early polling suggests a dead heat.

Questions

Hawaii – Speculation is prevalent that Sen. Daniel Akaka, who will be 88 at the time of the 2012 election, will retire. If so, the Republicans will be competitive with former Gov. Linda Lingle. If Akaka runs, and early indications suggest he will, the Democratic incumbent should have little trouble winning again.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez is polling below 50% in early survey trials but comfortably ahead of all potential Republican rivals. Though the senator is the decided favorite today, this race could become one to watch. Republicans may be looking most favorably toward entrepreneur John Crowley, who appears to have the potential of generating measurable political strength.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is in strong position for re-election and is viewed as a heavy favorite. Republican former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1), always a good vote-getter, could make challenging Bingaman a competitive race. She is said to be seriously considering launching a bid.

Wisconsin – Though he has been mum on his re-election intentions, Sen. Herb Kohl is another retirement possibility. If he chooses not to run, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings to run again. Should the senator seek re-election, he will likely face only a minor challenge.

Likely Democrat

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) retirement, thereby avoiding an unpredictable three-way race, greatly improves the Democrats’ chances. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and ex-Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz are announced Democratic candidates. Edward Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator, is rumored as a possibility. The two losing 2010 nominees, Tom Foley in the governor’s race and Linda McMahon for the Senate, are both mentioned as possible candidates; so is former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2).

Pennsylvania – Until the Republicans field a top-tier candidate, something they have yet to do, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is a strong favorite for re-election. A serious campaign could develop, but not unless a stronger Republican joins the current field of candidates.

Rhode Island – The Republicans could move this state into the competitive category if former Gov. Don Carcieri (R) decides to run. In a presidential year, it is unlikely he will, so Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is a solid favorite for re-election. 2010 gubernatorial nominee John Robitaille (R) has already closed the door on a senatorial challenge.

Vermont – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is another strong favorite for re-election, but state Auditor Tom Salmon (R) is making noises about challenging the first-term senator. A statewide official would give the Republicans the opportunity of making this a competitive race.

Safe Democrats

California – Dianne Feinstein (D)
Delaware – Tom Carper (D)
Maryland – Ben Cardin (D)
New York – Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Washington – Maria Cantwell (D)
West Virginia – Joe Manchin (D)

Republican Questions

Arizona – Retirement rumors are swirling around Sen. Jon Kyl. The senator has yet to begin an active re-election effort, thus suggesting he may decide to call it a career. The seat is competitive in an open situation.

Nevada – This is clearly the most vulnerable Republican seat, should scandal-tainted Sen. John Ensign win re-nomination. Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is considering a Republican primary challenge. Heller would have a good chance of winning the nomination and the seat. Democrats are in strong shape if Ensign qualifies for the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) is a potential Democratic candidate and promises to make her intentions known in mid-February.

Lean Republican

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R), elected in an early 2010 special election, must stand for a full term in 2012. Despite Massachusetts being one of the most reliable of Democratic states, Brown’s numbers appear strong and he has a legitimate chance to win again. Once the Democratic field gels, a better assessment can be made.

Likely Republican

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R), who will be 80 at the time of the 2012 general election, has already announced that he is seeking re-election. A predicted Tea Party primary challenge could be his biggest problem. Lugar looks strong in a general election, but the GOP primary situation could change the outlook.

Maine – Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has some of the better general election approval ratings of any 2012 in-cycle senator but, she too, has Tea Party problems in the Republican primary. Her situation in that regard has improved of late, however.

Safe Republicans

Mississippi – Roger Wicker (R)
Tennessee – Bob Corker (R)
Texas – Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Open Seat
Utah – Orrin Hatch (R) – Potential Tea Party convention challenge
Wyoming – John Barrasso (R)

Analyzing this initial line-up, it appears the Republicans’ chances of gaining an outright majority are good today, though there is no chance the net increase could be so high as to score filibuster-proof control.
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Our 2012 Senate Outlook – Part II

Continuing our early analysis of the 2012 election cycle, we now look at some more select states featuring a senate race next year. Be sure to read through our post on Jan. 5 for our analysis of the initial group of states that we looked at.

Nevada – Sen. John Ensign (R) – The fallout from a highly publicized sex scandal still leaves Sen. Ensign in a vulnerable position both in the Republican primary and the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) says she will announce by mid-February whether she will run for the Senate. This is the GOP’s most tenuous situation in the country.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez (D) – New Jersey political insiders suggest that bio-tech entrepreneur John Crowley (R) will challenge Sen. Menendez next year. Crowley, currently president and CEO of Amicus Therapeutics headquartered in Cranbury, NJ, is the inspiration for the 2010 movie “Extraordinary Measures” starring Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser. The film depicts Mr. Crowley’s efforts directing his previous company to find a cure for Pompe Disease, a serious and life-threatening muscular disorder that infected two of his three children. Although he has significant personal resources, Crowley’s business connections and “star power” put him in position to raise the necessary funds to be competitive. If Crowley runs, the NJ Senate campaign becomes a race to watch.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) – Recently, former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) made some public statements suggesting that she is considering challenging Sen. Bingaman, a five-term incumbent. Her entry into the race would certainly give the Republicans a credible candidate, but Mr. Bingaman appears to be in strong political shape. He will have the edge against all comers.

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad (D) – With strong Republican victories at the Senatorial and congressional level in 2010, the GOP will mount a strong challenge to Sen. Conrad, particularly noting the fate of his Budget Committee counterpart, defeated Rep. John Spratt (D-SC-5). Conrad chairs the Senate Budget Committee; Spratt held the same position when the Democrats controlled the House. Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem are the names most often mentioned as potential Conrad opponents.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – The stage appears set for newly elected Lt. Governor Mary Taylor to take a shot at Sen. Brown next year. For her part, Taylor is uncommitted to such a race, but the other potential candidates, such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4), appear to be either dropping out or taking no action to run. This will be a highly competitive race.

Rhode Island – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) – Despite the Republicans’ current poor position in the Ocean State, they are not without some credible potential candidates to oppose Sen. Whitehouse. Outgoing Gov. Don Carcieri (R) is not closing the door on a future political run and has not ruled out challenging Whitehouse next year. John Robitaille, who did surprisingly well in the 2010 Governor’s race – placing second to Independent Lincoln Chafee but ahead of Democrat Frank Caprio – is also a possibility. Though the Democratic nature of Rhode Island, particularly in a presidential election year, lends considerable strength to the Whitehouse campaign, either Carcieri or Robitaille could give him a run for the money. Whitehouse is the favorite in 2012 against all potential opponents, but this race could get interesting.

Texas – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Despite saying she would resign her seat before her run for governor that ended in a stinging defeat, it is still not clear whether she will seek another term in the Senate. Most believed Texas would feature an open seat election in 2012, but such may not be the case. If she does retire, then look for a mega-Republican primary that will contain several statewide elected officials and maybe a congressman or two. The Democrats seem pretty set with former state Comptroller John Sharpe as their candidate. He has lost two races for lieutenant governor since leaving his post. Whatever happens on the Republican side, the GOP will be heavy favorites to win in November 2012. As in most every year, the Democrats will claim to have a chance, brandish polls showing them in good position, but then lose by 12 points.

Virginia – Sen. Jim Webb (D) – This promises to be one of the top races in the country. Sen. Webb has curiously not yet committed to seeking re-election and murmuring even among Democrats suggests that it’s possible he will retire after just one term. If he does, watch for Democratic National Committee chairman and former Gov. Tim Kaine to enter the race. Ex-Gov. and Sen. George Allen (R), the man Webb beat in 2006, is gearing up for a re-match. He appears to have the inside track to the Republican nomination. Polling shows a tight Webb-Allen race. The Democrats will likely be stronger with Kaine as their nominee.

West Virginia – Sen. Joe Manchin (D) – Like Sen. Gillibrand, newly elected Sen. Manchin must also stand for election again in 2012, as he won only the right to serve the final two years of the existing term in the last general election. With all of the focus on the state’s basically open gubernatorial race, the position Manchin vacated to run for Senate, he begins the current election cycle as a prohibitive favorite.

Wisconsin – Sen. Herb Kohl (D) – There has been intense speculation that Sen. Kohl, who will be nearing his 78th birthday at the time of the next election, will retire. If he does, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings. Should Kohl seek re-election to a fifth term, he will be a heavy favorite and likely escapes a strong challenge. Most Republicans are looking to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) to run if the seat opens, but he may decide the stakes are too high to risk defeat in a state that normally trends Democratic, 2010 notwithstanding. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is another potential Republican candidate.
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