Control of Senate
hanging on Talent

By Jon Dougherty

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The eyes of the nation are on this pivotal Midwestern state where a victory for Republicans means that in addition to keeping the House of Representatives, they will regain control of the Senate in a midterm election, something that has happened only rarely in the past 75 years.

The race between Sen. Jean Carnahan and former Rep. Jim Talent is a special election because Mrs. Carnahan was appointed to her post by former Gov. Roger Wilson. Her husband, then-Gov. Mel Carnahan, was killed in a plane crash just weeks before the 2000 election, in which he posthumously defeated incumbent GOP Sen. John Ashcroft.

Because of those special circumstances, that means Talent – if he wins – would be able to take his seat immediately, and would not have to wait until January, when senators normally take their seats.

In the all-important Missouri race, Talent currently has a narrow 2-point lead over Carnahan, with 96 percent of the vote counted.

Indeed, breaking with tradition, Republicans are retaining control of the House and are threatening to take over the Senate, according to polling projections.

Though the party in power has historically lost seats during the midterm elections, the GOP seems to be faring well, no doubt due in part to President Bush’s final campaign blitz on behalf of Republican candidates over the past two weeks.

While a number of races are still in play, analysts believe the House will remain an ally of the White House. The Senate, meanwhile, is still uncertain, though Republicans are making a good showing.

By early evening, Republicans had picked up wins in Georgia, North Carolina, and New Hampshire, and were leading in Missouri, Colorado, and a tight race in Minnesota.

Specifically:

In Georgia’s Senate race, Republican challenger Rep. Saxby Chambliss has been projected the winner over Democratic incumbent Sen. Max Cleland, according to Fox News.

In North Carolina, exit polling shows that GOP challenger Elizabeth Dole has beaten Democratic challenger and former Clinton administration official Erskine Bowles, while in New Hampshire, GOP candidate John Sununu is projected to beat Democrat Jean Shaheen, Fox News predicted.

In Missouri, meanwhile, former GOP congressman Jim Talent is leading incumbent Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan by 51-46 percent, while Libertarian Tamara A. Millay has captured 1 percent.

In Colorado, incumbent GOP Sen. Wayne Allard is beating Democrat Tom Strickland 52-45 percent.

Meanwhile, in the tightly contested Minnesota race, Republican Norm Coleman has taken an early lead against former Vice President Walter Mondale, who replaced the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, by a 53-44 percent margin.

Wellstone, his wife and daughter were killed in a plane crash two weeks before the election.

In New Jersey, however, Democrat Frank Lautenberg – tapped by Democrats to fill in for Sen. Robert Torricelli, hampered by an ethics scandal this year – has been projected to beat GOP challenger Doug Forrester by a sizeable margin.

And in Arkansas, Democrat Mark Pryor leads incumbent Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson 54-46 percent.

In 1934, Franklin Roosevelt’s Democrats won seats in the midterm election, while Bill Clinton’s Democrats gained in 1998. If the GOP pulls off upset victories tonight, President Bush would become only the third president to lead his party to midterm gains in nearly a century.