November 5th, 2010
01:57 PM ET
12 years ago

2012 Senate battle already underway

Washington (CNN) - Three days after Democrats took a whipping in the House in the midterm elections, jockeying has already begun in the next battle for the Senate, with Democrats - and even some Republicans - already feeling the heat.

Some lawmakers are already quietly discussing whether to run for re-election in two years. Thirty-three Senate seats are up for grabs in 2012, with 23 of those belonging to Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them.

It's doubtful that the political climate will be as friendly in 2012 to Democrats as it was in 2006, when the party won back control of both the House and the Senate. Among those Democratic senators who could face challenging re-elections: Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Jim Webb of Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Sen.-elect Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

"There is no question that Democrats start the next cycle on the defensive. They're defending more seats in some tough, red, territory," said Nathan Gonzales, political editor at the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. "But at least Democrats have the advantage of time. We're still a long way from the next elections and it's impossible to know where the economy will be in two years."

Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who is part of the Democrats' coalition in the chamber, is also up for reelection. The big question is whether he'll face one or two opponents.

But it's not just Democrats who will be facing difficult re-elections.

While Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana survived a personal sex scandal in this year's election, there's no guarantee Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, also tainted by a sex scandal, will be as successful when he's up for re-election in 2012. And Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who pulled of an upset earlier this in year in the battle to succeed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, will be in the Democrats' bullseye in the next election.

But it's not just Democrats that some Republican senators up next time have to fear.

The Tea Party movement sucessfully targeted incumbent GOP Sens. Bob Bennett of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, helping defeat both incumbents in this year's primaries. While Murkowski may survive, thanks to a general election bid as a write-in candidate, the warning is on the wall for Republican lawmakers who have in the past been willing to compromise with Democrats and who may not be fiscally conservative enough for Tea Party activists.

Among those Republican senators up for re-election who could come under attack by the Tea Party movement: Orrin Hatch of Utah, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Bob Corker of Tennessee, and even Brown, who received assistance from Tea Party activists in his election victory at the beginning of the year.

Wednesday Red State's Erick Erickson, a CNN contributor, added Brown to his list of "Potential Tea Party Targets for 2012." Tea Party supporters have issues with some of Brown's votes since he was sworn in.

Among national Tea Party groups, Tea Party Express took the lead this year in targeting what they considered Republicans in name only.

"Hopefully the 2010 election results will cause more senators to see the light about excessive growth of government and deficit spending. So we will give them a chance to improve before we make them feel the heat in their re-election campaigns," said Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell. "After the results this week, my guess is many senators will suddenly be more willing to adhere to conservative ideals."

An influential conservative senator who bucked his party leadership when it came to primary battles for open Senate seats this year says he won't be targeting fellow Republicans in the chamber in 2012.

"I have no intentions, at this point, of supporting primary challengers to any of my colleagues," Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina told CNN's John King on Wednesday. "I think you may see primary challenges if our colleagues don't do what we've promised as Republicans. And that's to support constitutional limited government. I didn't recruit any primary challengers this time, and - but the people, i believe, will help us make those decisions."

- Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

Filed under: 2012 • Democrats • Senate
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. masse

    What i dnot get is the meaning of copromise. GOP wants the DEMs to do what GOP wants, this is not comprimise it is dictature, period.

    November 5, 2010 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  2. Wes B.

    The tiny, but loud, Tea Party does not make the decisions for this country. They are the fringe.

    They will burn out soon enough when the country fully realizes how silly many of their policies are, and that they are useless because of their stance of non-compromise.

    November 5, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  3. kyle from ohio

    Question; Why is the News organization reporting the 2010 midterm elections as a whipping or words like that; when in fact the number of lost seats was more a normal occurrence; look at Reagan, Clinton, Bush JR and now this election and the trends are there, what happens in a midterm, but i see i must do my on research, cause the News organization do not research facts anymore. Also with unemployment so high a real mandate or Whipping would have been 80-100 seats in the House and 15-20 seats in the senate. Again i see i must do my own research for the facts.

    November 5, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  4. S. In California

    No worries democrats by then MOST of the "spineless individuals" who voted these clowns in will have buyers remorse as they STILL will have no job and are seeking welfare.

    November 5, 2010 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. The Big J

    Say what you will about Pelosi, but I never did see her cry like a SISSY! Is this the feminization of the American male that Limbaugh is always ranting about?

    November 5, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  6. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    Get used to it, consumerbots. We're in eternal campaign mode from here on out. All of the idiot "real Americans" will be bombarded daily with loads of propaganda, rumor and outright lies designed to scare them into voting against their own best interest. Say bye bye to the middle class. It was a good run while it lasted. Have a nice day!

    November 5, 2010 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. Orlando Patriot

    The people have spoken. REPEAL HEALTH CARE!! That is killing our economy right now!! You Dems in Congress have two years to put your name on a bill for ABSOLUTE REPEAL!! That is the only way to save your jobs. Don't forget – you have two years to repeal this catastrophe.........

    November 5, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  8. Jack

    Just sit back and keep listening to Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Sarah Palin for the next two years. It will be a
    no-brainer by then. Just like last time.

    Democrats 2012.

    November 5, 2010 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  9. hf

    Hand writing is on the wall, someone is actually saying cntrol government, but will these people make good and hold the policticans we elected ......... will they do the right thing and get the country down to a spending that will help American or just another round of power hungry people wrecking America. And will be take over by someone with no idea how to run this organization?

    November 5, 2010 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. David M

    Right on time. The election is barely over and they're discussing re-election already. Way to go guys. Nothing like getting right to work and actually earn your pay!

    November 5, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. Monster Zero

    Yeah Obama, it was a communication failure, not your policy failures...How clueless can this guy be, I guess about as clueless as the libtards on here... I thought you all said he was the brainiac of all lib brainiacs...kind of like the brain bug on Starship Troopers!

    November 5, 2010 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  12. Rick McDaniel

    Dems have a lot to change, before the voters will be ready to vote for them again.

    November 5, 2010 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |