Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-Rep. Akin dies at 74 Republicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect MORE (D) isn't looking to the new chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for advice on her reelection.

McCaskill told The Ballot Box she has yet to speak about 2012 with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBuilding strong public health capacity across the US Texas abortion law creates 2022 headache for GOP Top Democrat says he'll push to address fossil fuel tax breaks in spending bill MORE (D-Wash.), who last month was appointed to lead the DSCC. 

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Asked if they planned to chat during the holiday season, McCaskill didn't sound like she'd be waiting by the phone.

"I doubt it," she said. "I don't think there's one-size-fits-all in terms of a strategy. Every state's different, and every senator's going to have to run their own race."

With that in mind, McCaskill has already started edging away from her party's leadership. She voted against comprehensive immigration reform, is opposed to cap-and-trade, and she voted against the DREAM Act in 2007, which some observers expect her to repeat if the legislation comes up again.

Even if McCaskill cozied up to Murray, there might be little the DSCC can do to help her because its resources will be stretched next cycle. Democrats need to defend 23 Senate seats in 2012 and eight of those, including McCaskill's Missouri seat, are in Republican-leaning states. 

Missouri Democrats suffered some tough loses in 2010, including seeing Rep. Ike Skelton's (D) long-held seat go to a Republican. Moreover at the state level, Republicans increased their ranks in the state House from 88 to 106 members and in the state Senate from 23 to 26 members. With the national mood favoring Republicans, some observers predict it could be worse for Missouri Democrats two years from now. 

But complicating the GOP's strategic planning is that almost all the state's top constitutional offices — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer — are up for reelection in 2012. The challenge for Missouri Republicans is to channel their candidates into the right races.

With that in mind, state party leaders have been watching the Senate primary field take shape with some trepidation. Former Treasurer Sarah Steelman has already announced she's running, and she might soon be joined by such prominent Republicans as former Sen. Jim Talent and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.

McCaskill acknowledged just two strong candidates in the GOP primary could help her chances.

"If Sarah Steelman and Jim Talent both run, they’re both strong, smart candidates, and I imagine that that would be quite a tussle," she said. 

Missouri is considered fertile ground for the Tea Party movement, but McCaskill isn't convinced the loosely affiliated groups will remain intact — although she didn’t expect their influence to disappear.

"I think the ideas that they espouse will continue to be very powerful," she said.