Bit by bit, the 2012 Senate race outlook begins to take shape.
At this very early date, the race in Nebraska looks good for Republican challengers to Sen.
Cornhusker Kickback Ben Nelson. Sen. Kent Conrad’s retirement makes North Dakota much more challenging for Democrats, and Rep. Denny Rehberg’s expected Senate bid gives the GOP a top-tier challenger against Jon Tester in Montana.
Then you have the presidential swing states of Missouri (McCaskill) Virginia (Webb) and Florida (Bill Nelson) where the GOP should have a solid shot, presuming their nominee is strong and the recent red tide in those states doesn’t recede.
Then there are the longer-shots: the open seat in Connecticut, Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Bob Casey Jr. in Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, Joe Manchin in West Virginia.
Republicans have 47 seats, meaning that if the successfully defend all of their currently-held seats up in 2012, they need three pickups to control the Senate if the GOP wins the presidency, four pickups if Obama is reelected. Of course, that scenario requires Sen. Scott Brown to win reelection in Massachusetts, and we’ll have to see if Sen. Olympia Snowe is defeated or hobbled by a primary challenge in Maine.
And now there’s one more intriguing entry: Hawaii. Ordinarily you would think three-term incumbent Democrat Daniel Akaka would be a near-lock for reelection. But the Republican nominee may be two-term former Gov. Linda Lingle, and in the past she has been a fund-raiser, gathering $6 million for her reelection bid.
Meanwhile, Akaka has… $66,278 in cash for his re-election campaign. Now, it’s worth noting he had $82,565 at a similar point before his 2006 campaign. Also, the man is 86 years old and there are understandable rumors of a possible retirement.