Republicans today struggled to prevent a Democratic takeover of the US Senate after losing Republican-held seats in Ohio, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.
Seizing on voter discontent with President George Bush and the war in Iraq, Democrats mounted challenges for Republican-held seats in three other states - Virginia, Missouri and Montana – and were ahead in all three.
“I think we will hold control of the Senate,” Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman said on CNN.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey, son of a popular former governor, soundly defeated incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative and third-ranking member of the Senate Republican leadership who is closely allied with Bush.
Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown easily beat Republican incumbent Mike DeWine in Ohio, a state where Republican scandals were devastating for the party.
Former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse defeated incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. Chafee is an openly anti-war Republican who consistently voted against Bush on legislation.
But Republican Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, defeated Democratic Rep. Harold Ford for the seat held by retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Ford had sought to become the first black southerner elected to the Senate in more than a century.
If Democrats were to win two more seats, it would produce a 50-50 Senate, like the one that existed in early 2001, when Vice President Dick Cheney wielded tie-breaking authority.
Even if they do not get a majority, Democrats will make it harder for Bush to enact his agenda his final two years in office by holding more seats in the Senate.
Americans “have come to the conclusion, as we did some time ago, that a one-party town simply doesn’t work,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told party workers early Wednesday.
Reid said a strong Democratic turnout in both Senate and House races shows “we must change course in Iraq”.