Democratic Senate majority at risk?
The Cook Political Report (subscription required) tells us:
Republican At-Large Rep. Dennis Rehberg is slated to announce Saturday that he will challenge first-term Democratic Sen. Jon Tester next year, according to a report in Roll Call and confirmed by a Republican who served in the House with Rehberg and who has spoken to him about the race in recent weeks. Rehberg's entry vaults this contest that had been in the Likely Democratic column to Toss Up, bringing the total number of Democratic-held seats in that column to five. Sens. Ben Nelson (NE), Jim Webb (VA) and Joe Manchin (WV) as well as the open seat in North Dakota are already in the Toss Up column. . . .
We have not seen any independent polling here, but Roll Call reported a survey taken for Rehberg by Opinion Diagnostics (January 5 of 400 likely voters) that showed the Republican ahead of Tester by six points, 49 percent to 46 percent, with 8 percent undecided. . . . Given the circumstances under which Tester won this seat - in a good year for his party and against a damaged GOP incumbent - it seemed inevitable that he would get a competitive race. Rehberg tops the list of candidates to give him that contest, and his entry into the race elevates it to one of the most competitive in the nation.
Keep in mind that the Democrats must defend 23 seats while the Republicans have only 10 seats up in 2012. Currently, the Cook Report has only 2 "toss up" Republicans, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). However, Brown remains one of his state's most popular officials, and it is quite possible Ensign may retire or face a primary challenge.
Much can and will change before 2012. But for now, it seems very possible that Republicans could pick up the 4 seats needed to win control of the Senate. It's early, though, so stay tuned.
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