Politics 2012: 10 Most Vulnerable Senators (Fall 2011 Update)

12/27/11 Note:  Several sources (CNN) (Politico) are reporting that Senator Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) will announce that he is not seeking re-election in November 2012.  The Western Word (TWW) had Nelson listed as the “Most Vulnerable” Senator up for re-election in 2012.

The honor of being TWW’s #1 Most Vulnerable Senator now falls on Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) with Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) moving up to #2.


This is my third column about the U.S. Senate elections of 2012.  If you missed one of the previous columns, you can read them by clicking on these dates:

November 2010. 

March 2011.

About a year from now (September 2012) we will be in campaign “frenzy” mode.  You’ll be getting fliers in your mailbox, calls on your telephones, and your local television and radio stations will be saturated with campaign advertisements.  The national campaign to elect a President will be in full swing.  It will be hard to escape the grips of the political campaigns.  For us political junkies, it will be fun!

In the United States Senate one-third of the senators are up next for re-election in November 2012.  For those unfamiliar with politics, senators are placed in one of three “classes” with approximately 33 of them up for re-election every two years. The members of the U.S. House are up for re-election very two years.

In 2012, there will be 21 Democrat senators up for re-election and only 10 Republicans. There are also two Independents that caucus with the Democrats. You can view the list HERE (of course some may decide not to run). There will also be a presidential election in 2012.  Right now, being an Obama Democrat will hurt a senator or a representative.  Tuesday night, the GOP won the special election for former Representative Anthony Weiner’s seat in New York.  This seat had not been in GOP hands since 1922.  That may change for the election of November 2012; at least the democrats are hoping things get better before then.

Most Senators who are up for re-election and those who are challenging them are already busy raising the funds necessary to mount a serious campaign – many may already have campaign websites up – some are crisscrossing the country attending fundraisers.

Frankly, most senators work harder in the last two years of their six year terms than they do the other four years.  You’ll see them (and their staffers) out and about more in the last two years of their term and they will probably even be friendlier – they need your votes.  You’ll see more pro and con letters to the editor and more guest opinions and interviews on television and radio.  It’s campaign time!

Things are still very fluid across the country with unemployment still high and the debt situation not being under control.  Congressional approval ratings are in the toilet.  It’s a mess and incumbents will take the blame if the situation does not get better.

In compiling this information, I did a lot of research.  I watched the news. I read blogs.  I checked fundraising data.  I checked the major newspapers of every state where a senator is up for reelection.

Here is my updated list with #1 being the most vulnerable at this time and the March 2011 rating listed in parentheses:

10. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) (March 2011 -#7)

9. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) (March 2011 -#10)

8. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) (March 2011 -#5)

7. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) (March 2011 -#6)

6. Dick Lugar (R-Indiana) (March 2011 -#9)

5. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) (March 2011 -#4)

4. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts) (March 2011 -#8)

3. Jon Tester (D-Montana) (March 2011 -#1)

2. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) (March 2011 -#3)

1. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) (March 2011 -#2)

Let’s take a look at a few of the races

#6 Dick Lugar (R-Indiana):

The Tea party is working hard in Indiana to tie the 79 year-old Lugar to President Obama.  Lugar went up on TV with an ad in late July.  He is worried and should be.  He already has an opponent in the Republican primary and may have two.

#5 Orrin Hatch (R-Utah):

Lugar and Hatch are about the same age and may face the same fate in 2012.  Hatch may not make it out of the Utah GOP convention because of the Tea Party in Utah.  They knocked off Sen. Bennett a couple years ago and may be able to nail Hatch, too.  Hatch was recently endorsed by Mitt Romney and Steve Forbes.   The Tea Party is actively recruiting a challenger for Hatch.

#4 Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts):

Everyone knows that Brown would have a challenge in Massachusetts.  He gets to take the blame for derailing the democrat machine a couple years ago.   It looks like Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, will announce that she will challenge Brown.  There are about five others considering a challenge.

#3 Jon Tester (D-Montana):

The best thing that Jon Tester has going for him is that his projected opponent in 2012 can also be considered an incumbent.  That projected opponent is Denny Rehberg, who has served as Montana’s At-Large Representative in Washington for the past 10 years.  Tester can give Rehberg some blame for the past spending and Rehberg can’t say that Tester is a Washington insider because Rehberg has been in Washington longer.

Tester has his campaign up and running and is so far bettering the Rehberg campaign in fundraising, plus Tester’s Social Networking is much more active.  Both are making a push for the veterans’ vote in Montana – with Tester looking stronger in that area.  These are just a few of the reasons why Tester has dropped in vulnerability from the most vulnerable to third most.  One thing for certain is that Montanans will hear “Jon Tester and Barack Obama” and “Dennis Rehberg, a millionaire who sued firefighters” over and over until November 2012.  Look for this race to be the nastiest and most expensive senate race in Montana history.

#2 Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri):

A private plane and $287,273 in back taxes may be the downfall for McCaskill.  Missourians will be hearing the line, “”I have convinced my husband to sell the damn plane” over and over next year.

McCaskill will be tied as much as possible to President Obama.  McCaskill previously served as Auditor in Missouri (1999-2007), which should make the back taxes a major issue.  The big question is who will run against McCaskill?

#1 Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska):

There’s already a line forming in Nebraska to take on the 70 year-old Ben Nelson, who has been selected as the top target of the Tea Party Express.  There are four or five Republicans considering a run.  Nelson is so vulnerable that just last week, the Nebraska Democratic Party bought $200,000 in airtime to help him and, guess what?  There are already charges of “dirty politics” in the Cornhusker state.  This should be a fun one to watch.

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17 thoughts on “Politics 2012: 10 Most Vulnerable Senators (Fall 2011 Update)

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  4. I think the spirit of 2010 will continue and that the Republicans will not only gain several seats and take over the US Senate but they will also do so with even stronger conservatives than the current average Republican US Senator winning these new seats. The Republicans need only to gain 4 seats but look out and dont be surprised if they gai 7 or 8 seats. (Then 2 years later, another heavy amount of Democrats are up for re-election over fewer Republicans. The Republicans will gain another seat or two then also halfway through Romneys first four years.

    • Robert – You are right – It’s looking good for the GOP this year. We’ll see if it holds up over the next four months. Thanks for visiting. -Jack

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