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Democrats tighten U.S. Senate grip
The same Democratic wave that made history yesterday by electing Barack Obama to the presidency drowned Republicans in the House and Senate and seemed poised to give Democrats commanding power in Congress.
Voters appeared to be looking for someone to blame for the state of the nation and the economy - and their wrath seemed aimed squarely at the GOP.
Democrats captured Republican-held Senate seats in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Virginia, drawing closer to a 60-vote supermajority that would ward off any Republican filibuster - the tactic that allows senators to stonewall bills - and aggressively advance their legislative agenda.
"The days of obstruction are over," New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer said last night. "In a bipartisan way, we in the Senate and our colleagues in the House will work together to turn America in the right direction after eight long years." Schumer chaired the effort to elect new Democrats to the Senate.
Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, the Senate's Republican leader, claimed a narrow victory over Bruce Lunsford, but he will lead a diminished caucus, one that will now search for a new path to reclaim its former stature. It was only two years ago that Democrats wrested control of the body and since then have governed with a razor-thin majority.
No more. In Virginia, Mark Warner, the former Democratic governor, was on pace to blow out his opponent, Jim Gilmore. Up in New Hampshire, voters ousted first-term Republican Sen. John Sununu in favor of ex-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
And North Carolina saw the defeat of Elizabeth Dole, the first-term Republican and wife of former Sen. Bob Dole, to state Sen. Kay Hagan. Dole may have suffered from voters' apparent intolerance for negative campaign advertising. Last week, she aired a television ad accusing Hagan, a Sunday school teacher, of being "godless." Dole's poll numbers immediately took a hit.
With returns still coming in, all eyes were on the Senate race in Minnesota, where comedian and author Al Franken, a Democrat, was looking to unseat Sen. Norm Coleman. The two were tied as returns were still pouring in.
In New Mexico, Democrat Rep. Tom Udall cruised to victory over Steve Pearce, which would give the Democrats the seat held for more than three decades by Republican Pete Domenici. Across the border, Colorado Rep, Mark Udall, Tom's cousin, defeated Republican Bob Schaffer.
Still unknown was the fate of Alaska's Ted Stevens, the 40-year Senate veteran convicted on corruption charges last month. He has been locked in a tight race with Democrat Mark Begich.
In Louisiana, Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu, once thought to be endangered, bested state treasurer John Kennedy.
Republicans found solace in the South, where Sen. Saxby Chambliss warded off Democrat Jim Martin in Georgia, and Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker held onto his seat against Ronnie Musgrove.
But for Senate Democrats, even a pickup of six or seven seats would be enough to get many bills to the floor, as some moderate GOP senators may not want to be viewed as obstructing significant legislation.