Tuesday, November 4, 2014 12:05 am
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Republicans are confident they will take control of the US Senate in Tuesday’s elections, but Americans may still have to wait until December or even 2015 to learn who controls the chamber.
Recent polls show Republicans pulling ahead of President Barack Obama’s Democrats in the battle for power in Washington, despite the races in Alaska and North Carolina remaining very close.
Republican leaders expressed confidence in the home stretch of one of the most consequential midterm elections in years.
Democrats currently hold a 10-seat Senate advantage, with 55 members to 45. If Republicans take a net six seats Obama will spend his last two years in office facing a hostile Congress.
“We intend to be a responsible governing Republican majority if the American people give us a chance to do that,” the party’s top Senator Mitch McConnell told ABC News.
The veteran politician is locked in a tight race in Kentucky with resilient Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, but two weekend polls showed McConnell extending his lead.
“The wind is at our backs,” Senator Rand Paul, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, told CNN on Sunday. “I think people are ready for new leadership.”
Republicans have hammered home their message that a vote for Democrats is a vote for an unpopular Obama and his policies, in particular his still unpopular healthcare reform.
“This is a referendum on the president,” Paul told NBC.
Republicans already hold the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are in play, and forecasters predict they will gain seats.
Three top forecasters now give Republicans between a 70 percent and 77 percent chance of winning the Senate.
But however successful the Republicans are, a complete picture may not emerge on Tuesday.
There are strong prospects for runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia, where rules require a second round if winners do not earn more than 50 percent of the vote.
Add to that a probable days-long ballot count in remote Alaska, where there is an unpredictable and tight race, which would also delay matters.
Louisiana’s runoff is December 6, but a Georgia runoff would be on January 6, three days after the start of the new Congress.
Polls — and history — show that Republicans would have the advantage in overtime in both states, although there would be intense ground games and ad wars, especially if the fate of the Senate were still up in the air.
– Republican momentum –
In heartland Iowa the Des Moines Register put Republican Joni Ernst a full seven points ahead (51-44 percent) of congressman Bruce Braley, who is struggling to keep the Senate seat in Democratic hands.
“It just shows the momentum that we have here in Iowa,” Ernst, an Iraq war veteran, told Fox News. “People are rejecting the failed policies of congressman Braley (and) they want a new direction for America.”
Other data suggested the race was dead even. A Quinnipiac University poll Monday showed Ernst and Braley were tied at 47 percent.
An incumbent president’s party historically fares badly in elections in the middle of his second term, and Tuesday is expected to be no different.
With Republican voters showing greater enthusiasm, Obama warned Democrats they could not afford to stay home.
“There is no excuse for us to just give away our power,” Obama said at a rally Sunday in Philadelphia. “You all have to vote. That’s what this comes down to.”
One Democratic casualty could be Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, a swing state where early ballots show challenger Cory Gardner with an eight-point advantage.
There are also wildcards in the mix. Independent Greg Orman could oust Republican Senator Pat Roberts in Kansas, and he has said he could caucus with either Democrats or Republicans.
Polls open in eastern states beginning 6:00 am (1100 GMT) Tuesday.