Charges over earmarks are already flying, even among those who have yet to officially declare their rumored candidacies.
Bachmann brought in an eye-popping $13.2 million during the campaign, shattering the previous fundraising record for House candidates.
Former California State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R), who waged a failed primary challenge to Republican Carly Fiorina from the right this past cycle, told supporters Thursday that he fully intends to be a candidate again in 2012.
According to the Los Angeles Times, DeVore sent out a fundraising appeal to backers in which he promised a return to the 2012 ballot — he's just not sure for what.
"I'm considering a number of interesting opportunities right now, with an eye towards continuing to impact public policy," DeVore wrote in the e-mail, which asked for help retiring some $40,000 of debt remaining from his 2010 run. "But in the long run, I remain passionately committed to returning our government to its founding principles. To that end, I expect to run for office in 2012 — what office remains a question."
Despite finishing third in the GOP primary, which was won by Fiorina, DeVore garnered significant attention from conservatives nationwide and an endorsement from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).
DeVore doesn't have too many options in 2012. Feinstein's seat is the only statewide election in California in 2012. Plus, Fiorina fell far short of defeating a weak incumbent in Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2010, despite a terrific national environment for Republicans.
Republican strategist Fred Davis, who served as a top adviser to Fiorina's Senate bid against Boxer in 2010, recently told The Ballot Box that Feinstein is one of the safest Democratic Senate incumbents in the country next cycle.
“I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would run against Dianne Feinstein and think they could win,” he said.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was derided as "Bailout Bob" by one Tea Party group earlier this year, says he sees no sign of a Tea Party-backed primary challenge to him in 2012.
"Much of that talk emanates from Washington, but back home I don't hear so much talk in that way," Corker told The Ballot Box of the potential for Tea Party activists gunning for him in a Republican primary in 2012.
The first-term senator said, "Back home the numbers indicate that I'm more popular among Tea Party folks than I am even with Republicans."
Corker earned the scorn of some Tea Party groups during his work with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on the financial reform bill, and is a rumored target largely thanks to his vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Earlier this year, RedState's Erick Erickson included Corker on a list of Republican senators who might make good primary targets for the Tea Party movement in 2012.
But Corker is talking tough on the deficit and already labeling the upcoming vote on increasing the debt ceiling "the next line in the sand."
Corker said he's planning on recruiting a group of senators who will demand tax and spending reforms before agreeing to a vote in favor of increasing the debt ceiling.
"It seems to me that what we need to do is use this next episode as the moment in time that all of us come together to reduce spending," said Corker, who noted that he reluctantly went along with President Obama's tax-cut compromise.
The senator also said he's confident that Tea Party backers will take notice of his focus on curbing spending and reducing the deficit in the Senate.
"I look at the issue the Tea Party members talk most about, which is spending — I couldn't agree more with them, nor could I focus more on that issue," said Corker.
The Alaska Supreme Court is set to hear arguments later Friday in Republican Joe Miller's ongoing challenge to the outcome of his race against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
A ruling in the case could come as early as Friday afternoon, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
A state court judge has already rejected Miller's argument that Alaska elections officials applied a faulty voter intent standard to the counting of write-in ballots for Murkowski. Miller is trying to get thousands of write-in votes cast for the senator thrown out on the grounds that voters didn't spell her name correctly.
The Tea Party-backed Republican also claims in his lawsuit that his legal team didn't have enough time to ready for the ballot review process, and Miller is still alleging vote fraud may have played a part in the results.
Murkowski was declared the winner over Miller last month, but official certification of the election results is still on hold thanks to an order from a federal judge. No matter the outcome in Alaska Supreme Court, though, U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline has indicated he will move to lift the injunction on certification quickly after a decision is handed down.
Murkowski's camp said earlier this week that it expected she would be officially certified the winner before the end of the month.
A slew of House Republicans thought to be contenders for higher office in 2012 voted against the tax package on Thursday.
New Mexico Republican Greg Sowards officially jumped into the 2012 race for Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-N.M.) seat Thursday.
Sowards, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008, made the announcement on his website, where he declared, "Voters are ready for a positive change based on conservative principles."
Sowards is far from the top choice for Republicans in the state, but the party is staring down a fairly thin statewide bench. Sowards lost a GOP primary in 2008 for the seat of Rep. Steve Pearce, who opted for a Senate run.
Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) was also a rumored candidate for the seat, but she has poured cold water on that notion and it appears unlikely she will wage another Senate campaign in 2012.
Bingaman's name isn't near the top of the priority list for national Republicans if he chooses to run for another term in 2012, but GOP interest in the seat has increased amid speculation he might retire.
Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) is the latest Republican facing reelection in 2012 to come out against the omnibus spending bill that's fueling GOP outrage on Capitol Hill.
Brown, who was thought to be a potential swing vote on the measure, called the bill "outrageous" in a statement Thursday, announcing his intention to vote against it and demanding a veto from President Obama should the bill reach his desk.
"It is outrageous and inappropriate to jam a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill full of thousands of earmarks through a lame-duck Congress with almost no time to debate," Brown said. "Curbing out-of-control federal spending requires us to re-examine and re-evaluate our spending priorities and restore transparency and openness to the process by allowing full, fair and open debate on amendments. Unfortunately, this omnibus does neither and represents more of the business-as-usual mentality that was rejected by the American people last month."
Brown faces the prospect of a tough reelection contest in 2012 in a heavily Democratic state, but he also has to protect his right flank with some Tea Party activists warning of a primary challenge.
Other GOP senators up for reelection in 2012 have come out against the measure, which has generated scorn from many conservatives and Tea Party activists.
GOP Sens. Roger Wicker (Miss.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), John Ensign (Nev.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.) have come out against the omnibus bill, as has Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who withdrew his earmark requests from the measure earlier this week.
GOP leaders in the Senate are largely united against the omnibus spending bill, even though several of them have millions of dollars in earmark requests of their own in the package.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who was near the top of the list of potential challengers to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in 2012, said Wednesday he is leaning heavily against a run for the seat.
Jordan told Real Clear Politics that he's focused on his new role as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, and while he wouldn't completely rule out a run, he made a challenge sound unlikely.
It leaves Republicans still searching for a top-tier candidate to run against Brown, whose approval rating stands at just 40 percent among Ohio voters.
In a poll released Wednesday from Democratic-leaning Public Policy, Brown's support never reaches above 43 percent in hypothetical 2012 match-ups with former Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) or Jordan. DeWine, however, is also an unlikely candidate, given that he was just elected state attorney general last month.
Other Republicans who have been mentioned as potential challengers include Lt. Gov.-elect Mary Taylor and Secretary of State-elect Jon Husted.
Lieberman said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) asked him to "sit down and talk" soon about the 2012 Senate race.