VOL. 123 | NO. 216 | Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Both Parties Expect Democratic Senate Pickups
By TOM RAUM | Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats counted on
solidifying their thin leadership grip on the Senate as voters flocked to the
polls Tuesday to fill 35 Senate seats. Embattled Republicans braced for losses
but hoped they would be modest ones.
Democrats were optimistic that the only two Democratic
senators who will lose their Senate seats as a result of the national elections
will be Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
And if the Democratic presidential ticket prevails,
Democratic governors in Illinois and Delaware are sure to
appoint Democrats to replace them.
Polls were open before daybreak in about a dozen Eastern
seaboard states. Long lines appeared in many places where polls opened at 6
a.m. EST, and New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine was seen reading a newspaper while
waiting to vote at his Hoboken
Biden is running for re-election as senator from Delaware as well as for
vice president. The Senate seats of Obama and GOP presidential candidate John
McCain are not on the ballot.
Senate Democrats now have a tenuous 51-49 majority, and only
thanks to the support of two independents. But a slumping economy, an unpopular
war and voter fatigue after eight years of President Bush could help them
bolster that majority, building on the six seats they added in 2006.
Piggybacking on aggressive Obama voter-registration and
get-out-the-vote drives, especially in battleground states, Democrats' goal
Tuesday is reaching a coveted 60-seat, filibuster-proof Senate majority.
Leaders in both parties portrayed that as a long shot.
Yet even bringing their numbers to close to 60 would enable
Democrats to exercise far more control than they have now, since some
Republicans probably would join them in efforts to break Senate logjams on many
bills and judicial appointments.
Democrats had fewer seats to defend than Republicans. Of the
35 races on Tuesday's ballot, 22 are now held by Republicans, 13 by Democrats.
The Democrats' top prospects for pickups were those of three
retiring GOP senators in Virginia, Colorado and New
former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner faced another former governor, Republican
Jim Gilmore, for the seat of retiring Republican Sen. John Warner. In Colorado, Democratic
Rep. Mark Udall, son of the late Arizona Rep. Morris "Mo" Udall,
faced former Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer for the seat now held by Republican
Wayne Allard. And in New Mexico,
Democratic Rep. Tom Udall – a cousin of the Colorado Udall – faced Republican
Rep. Steve Pearce to succeed retiring Sen. Pete Domenici.
The three Democrats were comfortably ahead in pre-election
Republicans seeking re-election faced tight contests in five
other states – Ted Stevens in Alaska, Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina, Norm
Coleman in Minnesota, John Sununu in New Hampshire and Gordon Smith in Oregon.
One route to 60 for Democrats was to win these five states
on top of Virginia, Colorado
and New Mexico, plus pick up at least one of
three other closely contested races in Georgia,
Kentucky and Mississippi. And not lose any Democratic
Going into the election, only one incumbent Democrat
appeared vulnerable: Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Republicans made a spirited run
at her, but Democrats saw her seat as a safe one.
In one of the most closely watched races, Alaska's Stevens,
at 84, the longest serving Republican in Senate history, sought re-election
despite calls from GOP leaders to resign after he was convicted last week of
seven counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms. He was locked in a
tight contest with Democrat Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage.
Another closely contested race was in Minnesota, where Republican incumbent
Coleman was challenged by Democrat Al Franken, the former "Saturday Night
Live" writer and actor. A significant third-party candidate, Independent
Dean Barkley, was complicating the race.
Underscoring the closeness of the race, Coleman embarked on
an all-night bus tour with overnight stops in St. Cloud,
Brainerd, North Branch, and Forest Lake before voting at 9 a.m. CST at the Linwood Recreation
Center in St. Paul.
Democrats also took sharp aim at Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell, challenged by Democratic businessman Bruce Lunsford in a close
and costly race in Kentucky.
In North Carolina,
a southern state into which the Obama poured heavy resources, Dole, the
incumbent, was battling an aggressive challenge by Democratic newcomer Kay Hagan.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., head of the party's senatorial
campaign committee, acknowledged ahead of the voting that "Democrats are
poised to pick up some seats." His Democratic counterpart, Sen. Charles
Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted "a whole lot of seats" for Democrats, but
said reaching a 60-vote majority was unlikely.
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