The Most Endangered Senate Seats in 2012

After his vote for ObamaCare, Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) was famously booed out of a pizza place in Nebraska. This gives an idea of how far the once-popular governor has fallen. Nelson's support clinched the passage of ObamaCare, which is an anathema in Nebraska. Barring the mother of all Democratic wave years in 2012, Nelson is finished and may opt to retire. Possible challengers include Governor Dave Heineman and state Attorney General Jon Bruning.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) came into office on the strength of the Democratic wave of 2006 and the unpopularity of incumbent Senator Mike DeWine. However, a PPP poll this year showed Brown with a 32% approval rating. Incoming Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor could be a good challenger, provided Governor-elect John Kasich is popular with Ohio voters.

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) ran as a strong pro-life Democrat, but backed ObamaCare and has been a reliable Democratic vote. A PPP poll this year showed Casey with a 31% approval rating. This makes him a prime target for any of the state's congressmen.

Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), a former Republican, rode a Democratic wave to a narrow victory in 2006, but PPP found Webb trailing former Senator George Allen (R-VA) in a rematch.

Democrats in danger, if an unlikely candidate runs:

A challenge from former Governor Jeb Bush could endanger Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL).

Governor Linda Lingle passed on a challenge to state political institution Senator Daniel Inouye, but may consider a challenge to the lackluster and beatable Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HA).

Endangered independent:

Polls have shown Senator Joseph Lieberman's (I-CT) popularity waning. Lieberman's actions in opposing the public option on health care, but eventually supporting the final bill, have antagonized both the left and right. This leaves him in a position where re-election is highly unlikely. Look for this seat to shift to the Democrats.

Possible retirement:

After the defeat of Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and the retirement of Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) remains the last Democrat in North Dakota's formerly all-Democrat delegation. The North Dakota political dynamic that allowed Democrats to represent this solidly red state in Congress since 1986 may have broken down with the passage of ObamaCare. Don't be surprised if Conrad, like Dorgan, decides to retire, which will open the seat for one of the state's ambitious statewide officeholders.

The bottom line? Both parties have worries, but Democrats have more of them, as they hold 23 of the 33 seats up in 2012.