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Dems Hope to Flip Five Senate Seats

Eliza Gray posts at The New Republic on "The Five Senate Seats Democrats Want to Flip in 2012." Gray begins by quoting Democratic strategist Tad Devine, who says "Olympia Snowe is the straw that broke the camel's back for the Republicans in the Senate contest...The smart money six months ago was Republicans are going to take the Senate. The smart money now is they're not going to."

Gray sees solid prospects for Democratic pick-ups, including U.S. Senate seats in Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, with the best chances in the two New England states. She provides an overview of the political climates and potential candidates for each state.

Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball has an unsigned post, which also has good news for Dems:

Maine is now the Democrats' top opportunity to win a Republican-held Senate seat, better even than Massachusetts, where Democrat Elizabeth Warren is challenging Republican Sen. Scott Brown in a titanic struggle, and Nevada, where appointed Republican Sen. Dean Heller faces a stern challenge from Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley. We recently switched Nevada to a TOSS UP, and Massachusetts has been a toss up in our ratings for some time. This gives Democrats another prime opportunity to play offense while they are defending many vulnerable seats across the country. The Senate is too close to call, but Harry Reid has a much better chance of remaining Senate majority leader today than he did at the start of the week...

With Dems having to defend 23 seats vs. the GOP's defense of 10 seats, holding the Senate will still be a formidable challenge for Dems. But there is no question that Snowe's retirement improves Dems chances dramatically.