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Lame duck votes set stage for 2012

Votes taken during the lame duck session of Congress by Sen. John Ensign and by Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dean Heller could offer some clues about possible matchups in the upcoming 2012 Senate race in Nevada, the National Journal Hotline says in a posting today.

For instance, Ensign and Heller, who may square off in a Republican primary, split on the President Barack Obama-GOP compromise on tax cuts, with Heller voting for it and Ensign voting against it.

"The divergence may emerge (as a)point of contention" in a primary, according to the Hotline.

Ensign’s position on earmarks in the closing days of the session — he voted against a budget bill that contained earmarked spending even though it contained $85 million he had requested — also could emerge as an issue.

Meanwhile, Berkley, a Democrat, emerged as a vocal supporter of the tax cut deal.

"While Berkley denied that a possible Senate run was part of her calculus, her decision to stake out ground in the middle cannot be ignored, especially considering her liberal voting record," according to the analysis. " Making inroads with moderates would be necessity for Berkley in a statewide contest and while it is too early to say what her political future holds, her votes early in the 112th Congress are certainly worth keeping an eye on."

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