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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Democratic Senate majority at risk?

By Jennifer Rubin

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.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 1, 2011; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Senate Democrats  
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Comments

Tester's been doing a great job in Montana. Montana voters vote for the candidate, not the party. Tester's a shoo-in.

Rehberg a typical Republican blowhard who goes fishing with his buddies, gets drunk, and has a high speed crash on the rocks with the motorboat. Definition of a Yahoo, not a Senator!

Posted by: thebobbob | February 1, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

The 2012 terrain is much more favorable for Republicans than it was in 2010 when they gained 6 seats. If the political climate is as it was last November, Republicans will easily regain the the senate. Even in a neutral climate, i.e, a close presidential race, Republicans should pick up North Dakota and knock off weak Dems like Tester, Nelson of Nebraska, Webb and McCaskill.

Manchin, if he votes with Obama, Nelson of Florida, Brown of Ohio, Kohl of Wisconsin (who might retire), and Casey of Pennsylvania are also vulnerable. Stabenow of Michigan would be vulnerable in a big Republican year, and Bingaman's seat in NM would be in play if he retires.

With the Republicans having only two seats in jeopardy, 2012 should be a good year. Now we need a strong presidential candidate to get rid of that hope and change guy.

Posted by: eoniii | February 1, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Senator Tester is not a "shoo-in," but he is a stronger candidate than Denny Rehberg has ever faced. Rehberg hasn't done anything noteworthy during his time in the House. He's just another good ol' boy Republican, but that might be enough in Montana.

Posted by: jfob | February 1, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

"...the Republican ahead of Tester by six points, 49 percent to 46 percent, with 8 percent undecided. . ."

the last time I checked, 49 - 46 = 3 (not six) and 49 + 46 + 8 = 103. About as convincing as your other posts

Posted by: MR-CRMS | February 1, 2011 3:30 PM | Report abuse

A recent Democratic-leaning PPP poll showed Rehberg with a two point lead, 48 to 46, within the margin of error. Rehberg has won statewide election six times for the Montana at-large House seat. Tester, despite his flat-top, gun ownership, and vote against repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, has been a reliable vote for Obama's unpopular agenda, including ObamaCare. Rehberg should defeat this poseur handily.

Obama has poisoned the well for moderate-posing or "populist" Democrats in states like Montana, Virgina, Nebraska, Missouri and North Dakota. The extreme statist nature of the Obama administration has ruined the Democrat brand in the heartland.

Posted by: eoniii | February 1, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Tester only made the primary because his opponent was involved in a sex scandal. And he won the general on late college votes.
As for him being good for Montana, cleaving the Obama line is not good for Montana at all. His only major legislative effort (regarding a wilderness "compromise" that is not a compromise at all) has been an utter flop.
And I have to laugh at the remark above about Tester being the strongest candidate Rehberg has faced. Rehberg ran against Max Baucus a few years back -- and lost. So I guess that tells you how Senator Baucus's strength is seen by Democrats. Next two elections should be productive and fun for those seeking sanity in government.

Posted by: daskinner | February 1, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

"...blowhard who goes fishing with his buddies, gets drunk, and has a high speed crash on the rocks with the motorboat. Definition of a Yahoo, not a Senator!"

Unless the last name starts with a K and ends with a Y.

(hey, you walked into it, Party animal! ;))

Posted by: aardunza | February 2, 2011 12:23 AM | Report abuse

I just know John's grinning at Ted somewhere right now...and he's shrugging it back, sigh, it's all good!

Posted by: aardunza | February 2, 2011 12:33 AM | Report abuse

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