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Republican Senate Seats Up for Re-Election in 2012

Conservatives Aim for US Senate Takeover

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Republican Senate Seats Up for Re-Election in 2012
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

In 2012, the Republican Party has the opportunity to take control of the US Senate. Republicans already hold the House of Representatives, and control of that chamber does not appear to be in jeopardy. A takeover of the US Senate is of high importance for the GOP, who wishes to repeal Obamacare before the bulk of the law begins to take effect.

The Republicans would need to pickup a net of 3 seats with a Mitt Romney victory (the vice-president would act as tiebreaker) or 4 seats with an Obama victory to take control of the US Senate. One third of the US Senate seats are up for re-election, and the Democrats have a disproportionate number to defend. The GOP only has 10 seats to defend in 2012, while the Democrats have an uphill climb and must defend 23 seats (counting two Democratic-caucusing Independents).

Before Republicans can look to take seats that Democrats control, they must first maintain a grip on the seats they currently have and minimize the losses. The GOP has a fair shot to hold on to most of the seats, with just a handful being moderately competitive. Here, we take a look at the 10 US Senate seats the Republican party has up for election in 2012 with an overview of the most competitive races.

Five Easy Republican Holds

The Republicans have 10 seats up for grabs. Half of those should be easy Republican holds, including Wyoming (John Barrasso), Utah (Orrin Hatch), Texas (Open), Tennessee (Bob Corker), and Mississippi (Roger Wicker). The other five seats are expected to be at least somewhat competitive, including one seat that the Republicans look sure to lose.

Arizona

Senator Jon Kyl is retiring after 3 terms. Although the GOP loses its incumbency advantage, the seat should still lean towards the Republican Party. Recent electoral history certainly favors the eventual GOP candidate, and Congressman Jeff Flake is the current frontrunner. McCain won the state in 2008 over President Obama and also serves as the state’s other US Senator. Governor Jan Brewer scored an easy victory in her 2010 re-election campaign and Kyl won in 2006, a big Democratic year. Any Democrat might have trouble winning here, especially given the public’s unfavorable views of the party’s immigration policies.

Indiana

Indiana is in a similar situation as Arizona and is a state that should also favor the GOP. Tea party pick Richard Mourdock thumped longtime establishment incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary. He will face "moderate" congressman Democrat Joe Donnelly in the general election. Indiana is a Republican state and Donnelly barely escaped defeat in 2010 with just 48% of the vote, thanks in part to a Libertarian candidate who pulled in more than double Donnelly’s margin of victory. Moderate Democrats are in survival mode, and right-leaning states are less willing to give them the benefit of the doubt after they rubberstamped the Obama agenda for 2 years.

Nevada

Dean Heller was appointed to this seat when his predecessor resigned following an affair with a staffer. Facing the voters for the first time, Heller enters the race against his Democratic challenger, Shelley Berkley, as the favorite. He has led in almost every head-to-head poll, but some polls have shown the race could be competitive. Harry Reid did win re-election in Nevada in 2010, but his son lost by more than 10 points in that year’s gubernatorial election. Mitt Romney also has put Nevada into battleground status, and that extra spending could lead to turnout beneficial to Heller.

Massachusetts

While it’s weird to list Massachusetts as a state that the Republican Party has the opportunity to defend, it’s just as weird to think that the GOP could win this seat twice in a row. US Senator Scott Brown originally won this seat in a 2010 special election following Ted Kennedy’s death. And what was Brown’s major campaign promise? To vote against Obamacare. Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren has run neck and neck in the polls with Brown, and it will be the most up-in-the-air contests on the Republican side. While Brown is fairly centrist, Warren plays to the left-wing of her party. That doesn’t really hurt her in Massachusetts, of course.

Maine

Tea party activists may regret their wish to see Olympia Snowe head for retirement. While Snowe often voted against the conservative wing of her party, she did provide a number of crucial votes throughout her tenure and could at least be swayed to vote with Republicans. While Maine Secretary of State Charles Summers won the GOP primary, former Governor Angus King, an Independent, has grabbed large chunks of support among Democrats and independent voters in the state. The race looks to be a loss for the GOP and Angus, who supports Obamacare and will caucus with Democrats, might have many conservatives wishing Snowe had decided to run for re-election

Overview

The Republicans are fortunate to only have to defend only 10 of the 33 seats up for election in 2012. If Republicans win the 8 senate states they are favored in, they will be sitting at 45 before counting the Brown seat in Massachusetts and the 23 seats that the Democrats must defend, with at least 11 Democratic-held seats being highly competitive.

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