–Cook Political Report: Current Power Configuration Likely To Remain
–Republican Majority In The House May Drop Slightly
–Senate Control Hinges On A Few Races; GOP May Squander Opportunity

By John Shaw

WASHINGTON (MNI) – As President Obama and his Republican rival,
former Governor Mitt Romney, have battled ferociously until election
day, dozens of consequential and close congressional races have been
contested largely out of national view.

These congressional races will determine which party controls the
House and the Senate, both of which will be important power centers as
Congress tackles a daunting fiscal agenda this fall and into next year.

Currently Democrats have a 53 to 47 majority in the Senate,
assuming the support of the two independent senators, Bernie Sanders and
Joe Lieberman, who caucus with Democrats.

Republicans enjoy a 240 to 190 majority in the House. Five seats
are vacant.

For most of the year, political experts assumed that Republicans
would win control of the Senate, in large part because of the 33 Senate
elections that are being held Tuesday, Democrats are defending 23 seats
while the GOP is defending only 10 seats.

However, several weak Republican senatorial candidates and the
surprise retirement of Republican senator Olympia Snowe has given
Democrats renewed hope that they will retain control the upper chamber
next year.

Specifically, struggling Republican candidates in Indiana, Florida,
Nevada, and Missouri and North Dakota have dampened the GOP’s chances to
win control of the upper chamber.

Jennifer Duffy, of the Cook Political Report, wrote several days
ago that “it appears more likely than not Democrats will hold their
majority, though perhaps by only the slimmest of margins.”

“We now believe that the outcome ranges from no net change in the
partisan breakdown of the chamber to a Republican gain of three seats.
With some breaks, there remains a small possibility that Republicans can
get the four seats they need to win the majority,” Duffy writes.

The Cook Political Report, a respected campaign analysis group,
says control of the Senate hinges on the outcomes in ten toss-up races:
Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana,
Nevada, Wisconsin and Virginia.

In Arizona, Republican congressman Jeff Flake is facing a
surprisingly tough fight from Democrat Richard Carmona, a former U.S.
surgeon general.

In Connecticut, Linda McMahon, a Republican businesswoman, is
dueling with Democratic congressman Chris Murphy for the seat that
Lieberman is vacating.

Indiana, Republicans State Treasurer Richard Mourdock has fallen
far behind Democratic congressman Joe Donnelly. Mourdock defeated
Republican senator Richard Lugar in the Republican primary this spring.

In Maine, Independent Angus King is running well ahead of his
Democratic and Republican challengers, but has not said which party he
will caucus with if elected to the Senate. Because of this, the Maine
seat has been called a toss up.

In Massachusetts, incumbent Republican senator Scott Brown is
facing a robust challenge from her Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren,
who has jumped ahead in recent polls.

In Missouri, incumbent Democratic senator Claire McCaskill is
battling Republican congressman Todd Aiken. Aiken has been under strong
pressure from other Republicans to leave the race because of
controversial comments he made about rape.

In Montana, incumbent Democratic senator Jon Tester is facing a
strong challenge from Republican congressman Denny Rehberg.

In Nevada, incumbent Republican senator Dean Heller is facing off
against Democratic congresswoman Shelley Berkley.

In Wisconsin, former Republican governor Tommy Thompson is battling
Democratic congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.

And Virginia, former Republican governor and senator George Allen
is in a close ace with former Democratic governor Tim Kaine.

In the House, the Cook Political Report says Democrats are likely
to make only tiny inroads on the Republican majority, falling well short
of the 25 seats they need to win back control.

“The net change in the House could end up anywhere from a net gain
of five seats for Republicans to a net gain of ten seats for Democrats,”
writes David Wasserman form the Cook Political Report.

“The most likely outcome is no net change to a Democratic gain of
five seats, not even a fifth of the 25 seats Democrats need,” Wasserman

** MNI Washington Bureau: (202) 371-2121 **

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