(Corrects spelling of Klobuchar in fourth paragraph)
* Wisconsin, Connecticut hold primaries for wide-open Senate
* In Florida, Democratic senator faces minor primary
By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE, Aug 14 With Democrats aiming to keep
control of the U.S. Senate and Republicans hoping to wrest it
away from them as well as hang onto their majority in the House
of Representatives, four states will hold primary votes on
Tuesday to choose their party's candidates to run for Congress
in the Nov. 6 election.
Voters in Wisconsin and Connecticut will pick candidates for
open seats being vacated by retiring Senators Herb Kohl and
Joseph Lieberman. Kohl is a Democrat, and Lieberman is an
independent but caucuses with the Democrats.
In Florida, the two-term Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is
facing minor opposition in the primary but is expected to be in
for a tough re-election battle in November against the likely
winner of the Republican nominating contest.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, is expected to
survive a primary challenge on Tuesday, while several Republican
hopefuls are vying for the chance to run against her.
Democrats control the Senate by a 53-47 majority. Two years
ago, Republicans seized control of the House and hold a 240 to
The Cook Political Report considers seven of the 23
Democratic-controlled Senate seats up for election this year to
be toss-ups. Three of the 10 Republican-held seats up for
election this year are toss-ups.
"It's a 50-50 ball game right now," said Cook Political
Report analyst Jennifer Duffy. "When I look at the map, I find
it improbable that any party would have 52 (Senate) seats, with
51 more probable."
A 50-50 tie in the Senate would give control of the chamber
to the candidate who wins the presidency - Democratic President
Barack Obama or his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts
Governor Mitt Romney.
A wild card in the Senate will be if former Maine Governor
Angus King captures, as expected, the seat of retiring
Republican Olympia Snowe. King has said he will not declare
which party he will side with until after the November vote.
In Connecticut, the favored Republican is Linda McMahon, a
former professional wrestling executive who lost another Senate
race two years ago despite spending $50 million. On the
Democratic side, U.S. Representative Christopher Murphy is
leading polls, and has already been targeted by McMahon's
In June, a Quinnipiac University poll found Murphy with a
slight lead over McMahon if the two candidates were to win their
primaries and face one another in the November general election.
Florida Republicans are expected to nominate U.S.
Representative Connie Mack, who a recent poll showed could edge
out Nelson in the general election. Mack's main primary rival is
Dave Weldon, a former congressman and conservative Christian who
has picked up a number of newspaper endorsements but has raised
In Wisconsin, veteran former Governor Tommy Thompson and
businessman Eric Hovde are expected to vie for the nod to face
Democratic U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin.
Whoever wins the primary may receive a lift from Romney's
announcement over the weekend that he had chosen Wisconsin
congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate,
Ryan is a polarizing figure in Washington, where he led his
party's push to cut domestic spending, lower taxes and scale
back the size of the federal government as chairman of the House
of Representatives Budget Committee.
After a career as a Washington insider, Ryan may also be
associated with the overwhelmingly negative view most Americans
have of Congress. A Gallup poll last month found that only about
16 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.
"I think what the Democrats are trying to do with the Ryan
pick is to run against the congressional Republicans," said Lee
Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public
Opinion at Marist College.
(Additional reporting by Edith Honan in New York, David Bailey
in Minneapolis and David Adams and Kevin Gray in Miami.; Writing
by Andrew Stern; editing by Christopher Wilson)