-- Rep. Connie Mack
, R-Fla., may have put Sen. Bill Nelson
, D-Fla. seat in play for Republicans. While the prospects weren't looking great before Mack's entrance - with a muddled GOP field vying to take on Nelson - 2 recent polls now show a close race between Mack and Nelson, with high name identification for the congressman. But Mack right now is more of a "generic Republican" than a fully-formed candidate in the eyes of voters. (How many voters are just mistaking him for his dad?) If he's the nominee, he'll have to come across less like a Washington insider and provide a clear contrast with Nelson to have a chance at victory.
-- Michigan tea party groups have followed Indiana's lead, announcing a statewide convention and straw poll to pick their GOP candidate of choice. The move to organize and avoid splintering their vote in the primary may harm the Republican frontrunner, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra
, if the groups coalesce behind conservative challenger Clark Durant
, rather than splitting support between several of the candidates running to Hoekstra's right.
-- In a surprise move, Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder
decided against a gubernatorial bid, announcing he'd instead run for reelection and throwing his support to Republican businessman Dave Spence
. It's not yet clear what kind of candidate Spence will be, but the development is potentially bad news for Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon
, long planning to run against Kinder and all his personal baggage. Meanwhile, with Kinder out of the race other Missouri Republicans could be taking a second look at it.
-- Job approval and favorability ratings for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
, D-N.Y., may not matter when it comes to her 2012 race. On the one hand, polls show she is consistently below 50 percent in both categories. Yet she tops
her only declared GOP challenger, George Maragos
, by almost 50 points. And other Empire State Republicans don't seem eager to get in the race.
-- Democrats have picked up two key victories in redistricting lawsuits lately -- with the Arizona Supreme Court reinstating the independent commission chairwoman after she was removed by Gov. Jan Brewer
, and last week's decision not to approve the Texas maps, making way for courts to draw a more advantageous map for Democrats.
The next ones to watch: whether the Illinois map stands in court -- which Democrats need it to -- and whether the North Carolina map, one of the GOP's best opportunities, holds up to challenges. Be prepared for even more court challenges in 2012 -- we haven't seen maps yet from Florida, Pennsylvania or New York.