(Corrects spelling of Klobuchar in bullet point)
* Florida voters choose Republican Mack, Democrat Nelson for
* Wisconsin, Connecticut voters choose candidates for vacant
* Minnesota Senator Klobuchar will be favorite in November
By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE, Aug 14 Favored candidates for the
U.S. Senate easily won primary contests in Florida and
Connecticut on Tuesday, as Republicans and Democrats in four
states picked candidates for the Nov. 6 general election that
will decide which party controls Congress.
Democrats control the Senate by a 53-47 majority. Two years
ago, Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives
in the 2010 mid-term election and hold a 240 to 192 majority.
In Florida, two-term Democratic Senator Bill Nelson faced
minor opposition in his primary, but was expected to be in for a
tough re-election battle in November against the Republican
primary winner, U.S. Representative Connie Mack.
Mack, the son of a former senator, easily won the Republican
primary over three other candidates and could edge out the
incumbent Nelson in a general election, according to a recent
poll. But political analysts said Nelson has ample resources to
"Tonight's results really show that a lot of Republicans are
voting for the candidate they think will have the best chance of
beating the Democrat" and putting aside negative concerns about
individual candidates, said University of South Florida
political analyst Susan MacManus.
Because of population shifts over the past decade, Florida
added two congressional seats, but the redrawn districts pitted
two incumbent Republicans against each other. Republican John
Mica, a 20-year veteran, easily beat Sandy Adams, a favorite of
the conservative Tea Party movement, in a central Florida
The Cook Political Report considers seven of the 23
Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate seats to be toss-ups. Nelson's
re-election chances were seen as particularly tough. Three of
the 10 Republican-held seats up for election this year are
"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, an independent, wins 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.
Wisconsin and Connecticut voters set the stage to fill U.S.
Senate seats being vacated by retiring Democrat Herb Kohl and
Joseph Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the
Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, a seven-term U.S.
representative and avowed liberal, ran unopposed in her party's
primary. Former four-term Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson beat
businessman and political neophyte Eric Hovde and two other
candidates for the Republican nomination.
Thompson may benefit in the general election from Romney's
choice over the weekend of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as
his vice presidential running mate, analysts said.
However, 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.
The Connecticut contest was won by favorite Linda McMahon, a
professional wrestling executive. McMahon is seeking another
chance after she lost a Senate race two years ago despite
spending $50 million.
On the Democratic side, U.S. Representative Christopher
Murphy was favored to win the primary and has already been
targeted by McMahon's campaign ads.
In June, a Quinnipiac University poll found Murphy with a
slight lead over McMahon if the two candidates face each other
in the November general election.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, was predicted
to be heavily favored in November against the winner of the
Republican contest. The party-endorsed candidate, Republican
state representative Kurt Bills, was leading handily with more
than half the vote counted.
(Additional reporting by Edith Honan in New York, David Bailey
in Minneapolis and David Adams, Tom Brown and Barbara Liston in
Florida.; Writing by Andrew Stern. Editing by Cynthia Johnston
and Christopher Wilson)