Republicans fight to reclaim the Senate majority: 2012 races to watch

• Nebraska: Another major recruiting win for Democrats came when former Gov. Bob Kerrey entered this open seat Senate race. Republicans point out that Kerrey, who previously served as a Senator, is far from a flawless contender. They've labeled him a carpetbagger for living in New York since hanging up his public service hat. But Republicans have their work cut out for them too. Their candidate, state Sen. Deb Fischer, just narrowly clinched the nomination. Fisher is perhaps the least tested major candidate in the race, which each side argues is a positive attribute, depending on how you look at it.

• Nevada: Republicans are fighting to hold onto Nevada this fall with appointed Sen. Dean Heller as their nominee. Democrats say Hispanic voters' distrust of Heller will help Democratic frontrunner Rep. Shelley Berkley. What's more, the party can piggyback upon the groundwork Sen. Harry Reid's successful 2010 re-election bid already built. Meanwhile, Republicans are using Berkley's party label and voting record against her, arguing she votes lockstep with her party leaders while Heller has taken an independent stance on key issues.

• North Dakota: Democrats welcomed former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp's decision to enter this open seat race. Heitkamp, a former statewide candidate many times over, was her party's top pick to fight to hold onto the seat of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad. She is likely to take on tea party freshman Rep. Rick Berg, who Democrats cast as too extreme and too eager for a promotion to win the general election. Heitkamp is already facing attacks branding her a liberal and tying her to the president, who isn't well-liked in the state.

• Virginia: National strategists from opposing parties agree on little, but both the NRSC and DSCC say that perhaps no other contest this fall will be tied more closely to presidential politics than the Virginia Senate race. Each party recruited a star candidate for this open seat (currently held by moderate Democratic Sen. Jim Webb): Former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and former Republican Sen. George Allen, who also served as governor. Virginia remains a major swing state for the presidential race, meaning that the Senate race will likely be fought at the national level. And we've already seen evidence of that in the form of a Joe Biden fundraiser for Kaine and National Rifle Association support for Allen. In the June 12 Republican primary, Allen is expected to emerge victorious.

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