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  Zogby Polls: GOP Could Lose Senate

Reuters | November 2, 2006

Democrats have at least slim leads in races for six of the seven most vulnerable Republican Senate seats, giving them a shot at winning control of the Senate on Tuesday, according to Reuters/Zogby polls released on Thursday.

With Democrats needing to gain six Republican seats for a Senate majority, extremely tight contests in Missouri, Virginia and Montana could determine the balance of power.

Democrats led Republican incumbents in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Montana, Virginia and Rhode Island, but only the Rhode Island and Pennsylvania races were outside the polls' margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In Virginia and Montana, Democratic challengers had slim 1-point leads on Republican incumbents, offering plenty of opportunities for momentum swings and lead changes in the final days.

Republican Bob Corker opened a 10-point lead on Democratic Rep. Harold Ford in the race for a Republican open seat in Tennessee, the polls found.

Democrats led in their two most vulnerable states, Maryland and New Jersey. Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez opened up a 12-point edge over Republican challenger Tom Kean in New Jersey.

Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, running as an independent, has a 10-point lead on Democrat Ned Lamont in a high-profile race with no bearing on Senate control.

Lieberman, who lost to Lamont in August's Democratic primary, has promised to support Democratic leadership.

To gain a Senate majority, Democrats must hold their own seats and win six of seven at-risk Republican seats, including knocking off at least five Republican incumbents. The new polls show that is a viable possibility, pollster John Zogby said.

"The Democrats have a real shot at the Senate now, and six weeks ago you probably could not have said that," Zogby said. "But it's still a jump ball, and there has been volatility both ways."

The polls of at least 600 likely voters in each state were taken between Oct. 24 and 31 in 10 of the country's most competitive Senate races.

Democrats have picked up momentum in the election battle for Congress throughout the year from growing public dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush, the Iraq war and the direction of the country.

Several Democratic challengers are taking advantage of the public mood ahead of Tuesday's election, opening big leads on Republican incumbents.

The biggest was in Rhode Island, where Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse had a 53 percent to 39 percent lead over moderate Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee.

Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, the third-ranking Senate Republican, trailed Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr. by 48 percent to 40 percent. In Ohio, Republican Mike DeWine was losing to Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown by 49 percent to 42 percent.

But in Montana, where Democrat Jon Tester has led in polls since summer, Republican Sen. Conrad Burns closed to within a point, trailing 47 percent to 46 percent. Burns was behind by 4 points in the last Reuters/Zogby poll in early October.

Democrat James Webb in Virginia, behind Republican Sen. George Allen by 11 points in early October, had a 45 percent to 44 percent advantage in the latest poll.

The closest Senate race all year has been in Missouri, where Republican Sen. Jim Talent and Democrat Claire McCaskill have traded narrow poll leads. McCaskill has a 3-point edge, 46 percent to 43 percent, in the new survey.

In Tennessee, where Corker and Ford are vying to replace retiring Senate Republican leader Bill Frist, Corker surged to a 10-point lead over Ford after the two were deadlocked in the early October poll.

"It seems to be slipping away for Democrats in Tennessee," Zogby said.

In Maryland, Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin leads Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele by only 5 points in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes.

Steele, who is black, had support from 31 percent of likely black voters in Maryland, the poll found. That is a strong showing for a Republican, Zogby said, but so far does not appear to be enough to tip the race in one of the country's most Democratic states.

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