10 Senate Democrats Targeted for Defeat in 2012

GOP hit list aims to put Republicans back in charge of the Senate.

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Republicans aren't just satisfied with taking control of the House and scaring President Obama so much that he has caved into them on taxes. Now they have their eyes on taking charge of the U.S. Senate in the 2012 elections and have already printed wanted posters for their top 10 targets. [See a slide show of the GOP's hit list.]

The upcoming election has disaster written all over it for Senate Democrats. The reason: 23, or nearly half of all Senate Democrats, are up for reelection in 2012 and many sit in states where the Republican surge, aided by the Tea Party movement, is hitting. Plus, most voted for the president's agenda that included healthcare reform and the bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry. As a result, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has a top 10 list of Senate Democrats to beat. [See a slide show of the GOP's hit list.]

1. Nebraska's Ben Nelson. The NRSC will remind moderate Nebraska voters of Nelson's support for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as they already have on the committee's web page. Voters will also be reminded of his efforts to win the so-called "Cornhusker kickback" on the Obama healthcare plan, providing federal funding for an expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska.

2. Montana's Jon Tester. While popular at home, Tester still comes from a Republican state that the GOP is confident of winning back with the right candidate.

3. Ohio's Sherrod Brown. Ohio elected a Republican senator and governor in November and party officials believe the swing to the GOP will continue in 2012.

4. Missouri's Claire McCaskill. Senate seats in Missouri are always tough to defend because the state's electorate is split. But like many other states, Missouri seems to be trending Republican.

5. Florida's Bill Nelson. Look for outgoing Sen. George LeMieux, who took over for Sen. Mel Martinez when he retired, to run against Nelson in a state where the Tea Party is strong.

6. West Virginia's Joe Manchin. Another state trending Republican but that elected a Democrat in the last election. It will be a tough state for President Obama to win because of deep unemployment.

7. Pennsylvania's Bob Casey. The GOP sees a good chance to pick up another Senate seat in Pennsylvania where fiscal conservative Pat Toomey won in November.

8. Wisconsin's Herb Kohl. If Kohl runs for reelection, the Republicans feel they have a good chance to portray him as the same kind of liberal as ousted Sen. Russ Feingold was in November. Unlike most states, the GOP scored major victories on the federal and state level in the progressive state, a warning sign to any Democrat there.

9. Virginia's Jim Webb. Another purple state that has been painted red in two recent elections, Webb could find himself running against former Sen. George Allen.

10. North Dakota's Kent Conrad. Conrad worked hard on the Obama healthcare plan, and that will still be a problem for many Democrats, the GOP believes. Plus his votes for Obama's major initiatives will fill TV ads in the conservative state.

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