Talent leads early in Missouri

By Jon Dougherty

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As polls closed across Missouri, former Republican congressman Jim Talent has taken an early lead against incumbent Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan.

The race between Talent and Carnahan is considered key by both major parties, and could decide whether Democrats retain control of the Senate or surrender it to Republicans.

A critical and unique feature of this race, in terms of the Senate’s balance of power, is the fact that because Carnahan was appointed, the winner of today’s special election takes the Senate seat immediately, rather than in January.

If the GOP regains control of the Senate, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., would once again be elevated to majority leader – a position he held before former Republican Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont bolted the party and became an independent last year, handing control of the chamber to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and the Democrats.