US midterm elections: A look at the hottest Senate races

No clear winner in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Ohio and Montana.

By
November 7, 2006 10:24

Pennsylvania: Sen. Rick Santorum toured small towns in a Republican stronghold Monday, trying to convince voters that electing a Pennsylvania Democrat to a full Senate term for the first time in more than 40 years would hurt the country. "What direction do they want? Less jobs created, unemployment, higher deficits, higher taxes? I don't know what new direction they're focused on, but the direction of this economy is strong right now," Santorum said, invoking his opponent's theme of a "new direction." Democratic challenger Bob Casey told voters gathered for a bingo game in Pittsburgh that he would ensure voters' interests "are ahead of the special interests" - a theme he frequently emphasized throughout the campaign. Casey, the state treasurer and son of the late Gov. Robert P. Casey, ran a relatively low-key campaign in which he repeatedly criticized Santorum for supporting President Bush. Casey would be the first Pennsylvania Democrat elected to a full term in the Senate since 1962. Santorum, a leading opponent of abortion and gay marriage, tried to highlight his differences with Bush on issues such as immigration. But he stood by the president on the war in Iraq and tried to frame it as part of a larger group of threats against the United States. Virginia: Sen. George Allen greeted commuters at a subway station Monday but he was immediately mobbed by reporters and encircled by supporters, whose shouting matches with protesters nearly drowned out Allen's words. Meanwhile, Allen's Democratic challenger, Jim Webb, predicted victory in Tuesday's election, telling a cheering crowd that "the White House is going to wake up and look across at the Capitol dome and say, 'We got a problem,'" At the subway stop in suburban Vienna, Allen urged supporters to vote, telling them "the world is controlled by those who show up." Among those in the crowd was anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who said she came to Virginia to support peace candidates - including Webb. Webb concluded his day at a campaign stop in Alexandria with former President Clinton. Clinton called the Republican campaign in Virginia "the most grotesque example of this formula they run all around the country." He aimed specifically at Allen's attacks on descriptions of sexual acts in Webb's six novels, many of them based on his combat experience as a Marine in Vietnam. "The only good thing about the attacks on Jim Webb's books is that someone on the other side actually had to read a book," Clinton said. Allen noted Webb's appearance with Clinton, who he said "ran the most corrupt administration in history." "You can tell a lot about someone by those they keep company with," Allen told a packed room of supporters as he urged them to get out the vote. In Roanoke, supporters filled a firehouse to cheer on Webb, who also campaigned with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former Gov. Mark R. Warner, both popular Democrats. New Jersey: New Jersey's Senate candidates sought votes from commuters and seniors in the state's largest county Monday, the last full day of a bitter campaign that has filled airwaves with attacks for months. Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr., a state senator whose father is a popular former governor with the same name, met with passengers at a train station in Ridgewood. "Too many people are giving up hope on the state of New Jersey. That's not the New Jersey I grew up in," he said, pointing to political corruption as a reason for the state's high taxes. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez made three campaign stops in Bergen County on Monday before an evening trip to a commuter train station alongside Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who appointed Menendez in January to fill the remaining year of his Senate term. "Victory is in the air," the senator said at a breakfast speech for seniors during which he continued to trumpet his 2002 vote in the House against sending troops to Iraq. "I took a principled vote against the war then because it was not in the national security interest of the United States, and I am convinced four years later that is still the case," Menendez said. Kean has run a barrage of ads accusing Menendez of being corrupt. Menendez aired ads seeking to portray Kean as a mouthpiece for President Bush. Maryland: Democrats brought former Vice President Al Gore to Maryland on Monday to campaign for Senate candidate Ben Cardin, who was struggling to hold onto a seat in danger of slipping into Republican hands. Cardin, who has been in the House for 20 years, was in a tight race with Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele for the seat of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes. Democrats badly needed to win to have any chance to take control of the Senate. "Congress has completely and totally failed to do its job in holding the president accountable," Gore said. Both candidates lost sleep to rally supporters. Steele toured coffee shops and grocery stores as early as 2 a.m. Monday, and Cardin was up late Sunday at a rally with Gore's old boss, former President Clinton. Steele spokesman Doug Heye said Steele slept only 45 minutes the previous night. Heye said visits by Gore and former President Clinton - plus two visits by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama - demonstrate that Democrats are scared of losing the seat. Later Monday, Steele greeted commuters at a suburban Washington subway station and lobbied for support from a few black voters. "Don't fixate on the party, brother," Steele, who is black, told one voter. "Get beyond that." Some commuters jeered Steele. One called him "Black Bush." "He wants me to vote for him just because he's black. I wouldn't vote for Steele if they paid me," said electrical designer Zavia Booth, who is also black and planned to vote for Cardin. Missouri: Democrat Claire McCaskill greeted voters at a grocery store Monday and knocked on doors in the neighborhood where she first campaigned for state representative 24 years ago. Her Republican opponent, Sen. Jim Talent, made an impassioned defense of his record. Speaking to supporters at a suburban St. Louis hotel, Talent highlighted his support of a bill to fight methamphetamine and his backing of a renewable fuel standard that requires more use of ethanol and biodiesel. He suggested neither measure would have been supported by McCaskill. Earlier in the day, McCaskill shook hands with grocery customers and employees in St. Louis. She encouraged one shopper to get to the polls. "People voting is all about motivation," McCaskill said. "The question is who is more motivated: The people who want to hold on to the way it is now or the people who want change. I'm betting on change." Tennessee: Democrat Harold Ford (nyse: F - news - people ) Jr. looked for votes in his opponent's hometown Monday while Republican Bob Corker visited every major Tennessee city on the last full day before the election. Ford started his day meeting with Chattanooga public works employees in the city where his opponent was mayor until last year. He vowed to improve health care for working people, and then declared: "Let's go beat this little guy!" - a reference to Corker's height, which Corker says is 5-feet-6 1/2 inches. Corker campaigned with Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander. "They represent the values of this state," Corker said of the Republican senators. "They represent the way this state wants to see our country go." Ford, a five-term Memphis congressman, and Corker, a former construction company executive, are vying to replace retiring Sen. Bill Frist. Ford is trying to become the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction. On the campaign trail Monday, he said his grandparents, who had an interracial marraige, were an American success story built on hard work. "They worked and worked and worked," he said. "Neither of them graduated from college, but all of their kids did." While campaigning last year, Ford first mentioned that his paternal grandmother, Vera Ford, was white. The news shocked many in Memphis, who belived her to be the matriarch of the city's most powerful black political family. There has even been disagreement within the family about her race. Rhode Island: Democrats aiming to take a Rhode Island Senate seat from the GOP hoped an appearance by former President Clinton would help tip the balance of power in Washington. The visit late Monday was Clinton's second campaign stop in the state in recent weeks on behalf of Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, who is challenging GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee. "The eyes of the country are now on Rhode Island," Clinton told almost 1,000 Democrats at the Community College of Rhode Island in Warwick. The two candidates spent Monday shaking hands outside supermarkets and visiting senior centers in a last-minute push to get as many voters to the polls as possible. With fewer than 700,000 registered voters in Rhode Island, the race could hinge on just a few thousand votes. Whitehouse and his Democratic supporters have tried hard to link Chafee to Bush. Chafee has relied on his reputation for voting independently. He was the lone Republican senator to oppose the war. He is also a staunch environmental advocate and supports abortion rights and legalizing gay marriage. Whitehouse has similar stances, although he disagrees with Chafee on some of the details, such as what to do now in Iraq. Ohio: Republican Sen. Mike DeWine, trailing in recent polls, finished campaigning Monday in the same county where he got his start in public service as an assistant prosecutor. DeWine also campaigned with White House budget chief Rob Portman before ending the day with a rally in the community of Beavercreek, near Dayton. "I think we have made some significant gains, and one of the things I'm seeing is tremendous enthusiasm around the state," DeWine said. "The voters now understand the choice they have." Democratic challenger Sherrod Brown, a seven-term congressman, stopped to meet union workers at a Ford engine plant in Cleveland, then attended a rally with 2004 presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Brown compared Republicans who are trying to hold on to their jobs to toddlers who refuse to let go of their blankets. "We're going to yank their blanket away, and we're going to put them to bed," he said. Montana: Montana's Senate candidates focused Monday on rallying supporters to get out the vote in a race still too close to call. Republican Sen. Conrad Burns told supporters in Butte, Bozeman and Billings that turnout of party faithful would be the key if he is to be elected to a fourth term. "This is going to be a very close election," he said. "And in close elections like this, turnout makes the difference." Recent polls have shown Burns trailing or running even with Democrat Jon Tester, an organic farmer who has criticized Burns for ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Burns campaigned with Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg and Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas on Monday. Tester campaigned with Democratic Sen. Max Baucus and Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer in Hamilton, Missoula, Billings and Great Falls. "We are seeing excitement in numbers like Democrats have not ever seen in this state before," Tester spokesman Matt McKenna said.


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