Expectations of a Republican takeover, which were widespread over the summer, are fading. Now the Democrats could retain their majority. Either way, it’s close, and no one can safely say which party will have a Senate majority after the Nov. 6 elections.
Among the changes in the landscape: President Barack Obama has an edge over Republican Mitt Romney in national polls as well as in key swing states such as Virginia and Nevada, suggesting that Democrats might turn out in bigger numbers and also vote for Democratic Senate candidates.
Another: The once-vulnerable seat held by Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri now appears safely Democratic since the Republican nominee, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, said this summer that women rarely got pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape.” In Florida, incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is seen as likely holding onto the seat against a challenge by Republican Congressman Connie Mack IV.
Republicans need a net gain of four seats to take control of the Senate if Obama wins, three if Romney is elected — since his vice president would break a tie. Democrats now control 53 seats, but 23 of them are at stake. Republicans need to defend only 10.