Aside from winning the White House, the best way for the GOP to weaken President Obama’s power is for Republicans to win control of the U.S. Senate. In 2012, 33 Senate seats will be up (23 Democratic-held seats will be up for grabs and 10 GOP-held seats). Of those 33 seats, approximately 11 races will be competitive at this juncture. For the GOP to take control of the U.S. Senate in 2012 they would need to net four seats. Two Republican-held seats are in danger of flipping (Dean Heller in Nevada and Scott Brown in Massachusetts).
2012 U.S. Senate Seats, Ranked By Likelihood Of GOP Takeover:
1. North Dakota (Open): Lean GOP
Democrat Kent Conrad is vacating the seat. Republican Rep. Rick Berg will likely be his party’s nominee and win the seat in North Dakota.
2. Nebraska (Nelson): Lean GOP
Democratic Senator Ben Nelson is on thin ice in predominately red Nebraska. The best Nelson can hope for is a bloody battle for the GOP nomination that leaves the eventual Republican nominee so bruised that Nelson wins in a squeaker.
3. Montana (Tester): Toss-up
Democratic Sen. John Tester is on the ropes and Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg is salivating at the possibility of moving from the House to the upper chamber.
4. Missouri (McCaskill): Toss-up
With Obama at the top of the ticket in Missouri, McCaskill really has her work cut out (Obama lost in the Show Me State in ’08). Luckily for McCaskill, a GOP frontrunner has yet to truly emerge.
5. Virginia (Open): Toss-up
Democrat Jim Webb is vacating the seat. If Obama wins Virginia then Democrat Tim Kaine will hold the seat. If the eventual GOP presidential nominee wins the state, then Republican front-runner George Allen will likely return to the U.S. Senate.
6. New Mexico (Open): Toss-up
Democrat Jeff Bingaman is vacating the seat. Heather Wilson (R) and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) appear to be the front-runners for their party’s nominations.
7. Wisconsin (Open): Toss-up
Muddled field on either side, but former Gov. Tommy Thompson appears to be the front-runner for the GOP nomination.
8. Florida (Nelson): Lean Democratic
With respect to the battle for the White House, this could be the single most important race for the GOP. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is leading, and a GOP front-runner has yet to emerge from a motley pack.
9. Ohio (Brown): Lean Democratic
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is ahead. Republican Treasurer Josh Mandel’s fundraising prowess has made him the favorite for the nominee. If the Republican presidential nominee can win Ohio, Mandel could be heading to Washington.