While not even a month has passed since the last national election, Democrats are already worrying that 2012 may prove to be a tougher environment for the party – and one that could spark major turnover.
Senate Democrats have a lot to lose come 2012, because of the 33 seats in play next election, 23 are currently held by Democrats – or the Independents who caucus with them.
Republicans are only tasked with defending 10 seats, and GOP leaders feel confident they’ll actually net at least four additional seats and win back control of the Senate.
Some analysts, who have already begun digging in to the 2012 races, give Republicans the advantage. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics says, “There are 13 Democrats who are vulnerable to very vulnerable, while there are just six Republicans who are vulnerable to very vulnerable.”
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) admits she’s feeling the heat. When asked about her 2012 re-election bid she replied, “I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say that I was worried.”
McCaskill is likely to be among the GOP’s top targets, which will probably also include: Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.).
And McCaskill acknowledges that Democrats have an uphill battle, “The voters obviously spoke very loudly a few weeks ago, and I heard them.” Other Democrats facing re-election, like Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) are publicly floating the idea of retiring altogether.
Among those who are vowing to fight for their seats, there is a noticeable distancing from the current administration. Although McCaskill voted with President Obama on health care, Wall Street regulation and stimulus spending she is now highlighting her willingness to break from Washington when it’s necessary to protect her constituents. “I have gone against my party more frequently than almost anyone else in the Democratic Caucus,” McCaskill notes.
Sabato says expect to hear the same from other incumbents. “One would think that the Democrats in the Senate would be voting more moderately,” Sabato predicts, adding, “If they don’t, they’re inviting a major challenge during the presidential year.”