Continued from page 1

Democrats find themselves having to defend so many seats because of their success in 2006, when they picked up six seats in the Senate and also took the House away from Republicans after a dozen years of GOP control.

“This is the compensation we have for being beaten very badly in 2006,” Mr. Cornyn said. “We’re glad to be in this posture. I’d rather be in our position than theirs.”

In Virginia, Democratic Sen. Jim Webb could face a rematch against former Sen. George Allen. Mr. Webb inched out Mr. Allen in 2006, but Mr. Allen has been building buzz for a return to Washington with speeches to “tea party” groups and less-than-subtle hints he is weighing another campaign.

Mr. Allen might not be alone seeking the nomination. Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart has floated the idea of a campaign for Senate and taken a swipe at Mr. Allen in the process.

“Sen. Allen was a great governor of Virginia, he really was,” Mr. Stewart said on a Washington-area television program. “But his record in the United States Senate was mediocre. And I don’t think most people in Virginia think of him as a great United States senator. They think of him as a great governor.”

Indeed, contested primary races could again be an issue for Republicans in 2012, just as they were in 2010, when Democrats retained a couple of Senate seats after candidates who were viewed as their most potent GOP challengers lost their party’s primary.