(photo credit: Courtesy)
WASHINGTON — Republicans were poised to dramatically shrink the Democrats' Senate majority and further complicate US President Barack Obama's agenda, even if they fall short of seizing control of the 100-member chamber.
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Republicans must pick up 10 seats to regain the majority they lost four years ago. Analysts in both parties consider that a tough task. The Republicans would have to win every toss-up race, plus score upsets in California, Washington state or perhaps Connecticut; Obama coasted in those states in 2008.
Republicans seemed almost certain to pick up Senate seats in North
Dakota and Indiana — where veteran Democrats are retiring — and in
Arkansas, where two-term Senator Blanche Lincoln consistently has
trailed Republican John Boozman in polls. Obama lost Arkansas by 20
percentage points in the 2008 presidential election.
These races could have long-term implications because Democrats may have
trouble retaking those Senate seats six years and 12 years from now.
Democrats privately acknowledge they have slim chances of winning any
Republican-held seats this year, despite earlier hopes in Ohio, New
Hampshire, Missouri and Kentucky. Republicans are reveling in their good
"At the start of this election cycle, most political experts were
predicting additional gains in the Senate by the Democrats," said
Republican spokesman Brian Walsh.
The opposite is true now.
Leaders in both parties said four fiercely contested races could go either way: Nevada, Colorado, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
Republican chances are dimmer against veteran senators in California and Washington state.
Three-term Senator Barbara Boxer of California faces Republican former
business executive Carly Fiorina, who says Boxer is too liberal and too
steeped in Washington for the times.
In Washington state, three-term Senator Patty Murray is trying to hold
off Republican Dino Rossi, a former state senator who made two
unsuccessful bids for governor.
Republican officials say their nominees trail in those two states, but an upset is possible.
If Republicans come within a seat of taking the Senate majority, they
may spend years second-guessing the Delaware primary. Popular Republican
congressman Mike Castle, a moderate, was favored to win Vice President
Joe Biden's former Senate seat. But tea party upstart Christine
O'Donnell beat him in the Republican primary, only to see her fortunes
quickly fall, despite assuring voters in a TV campaign ad that she is
"not a witch." The ad followed the release of TV clips from the 1990s in
which O'Donnell, a Christian conservative, said she once dabbled in
Democratic spokesman Eric Schultz said Republicans shouldn't be too cocky.
"Like the weather," he said, "politics can be difficult to predict, and
we believe Democrats are going to surprise people on Tuesday."