Sunday, 6 Dec 2020

Dems favored to take control of U.S. Senate, but results could be delayed

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) – Democrats are favored to emerge from 14 hotly contested U.S. Senate races with full control of Congress in Tuesday’s election, but final results from at least five of those contests may not be available for days, and in some cases, months.

With public disapproval of President Donald Trump weighing on Republicans across the country, voters will decide whether to end the political careers of embattled Republican senators including Trump ally Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and moderate Susan Collins of Maine among others.

In total, 12 Republican-held seats and two Democratic-held seats are in play, based on a Reuters analysis of three nonpartisan U.S. elections forecasters – the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections.

“There are dogfights all over the country,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, said at a campaign stop. He described the possibility of Republicans holding onto the Senate majority as a “50-50 proposition.”

Those odds appear optimistic, based on the three forecasters.

They forecast that Democrats could emerge with as many as 55 of the Senate’s 100 seats, giving them a majority for the first time in a decade in both the Senate and the 435-seat House of Representatives, where they are expected to maintain control.

Democrats are hoping to usher in a new political era in Washington if their presidential nominee Joe Biden also wins.

Though likely to fall short of a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority, Democratic Senate control would greatly aid a Biden legislative agenda or help stymie a second Trump term.

To win the majority, Democrats need to pick up only three Republican seats if Biden is elected president and Senator Kamala Harris wields the tie-breaking Senate vote as vice president. Republicans now hold a 53-47 seat majority.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado is seen as the most vulnerable among over half a dozen first-term party incumbents in Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and North Carolina. Democrats Doug Jones and Gary Peters are also on defense in Alabama and Michigan, respectively.

Related: President Donald Trump in 2020

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DELAYS EXPECTED IN RESULTS

Results from some races are not likely to be known until after Election Day, due to this year’s unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots and possible runoff elections in four races, according to analysts and state election officials.

Delayed results could occur in Arizona and Maine, where Democrats are strongly favored to flip Republican seats. With races tightening in North Carolina and Iowa, analysts say Colorado could be the best chance for Democrats to show an election-night victory.

Final results from a four-way Maine contest between Collins, Democrat Sara Gideon and two independent candidates could be delayed by up to two weeks, a state official said. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote on election night, the contest would be forced into rounds of automatic runoffs.

Two elections for a pair of Senate seats in Georgia could face a similar fate, except that runoff elections would be delayed until Jan 5.

Democrat Mark Kelly could be poised to unseat Republican Senator Martha McSally in Arizona. But county authorities have up to 20 days to review election results. McSally’s failed 2018 election contest against Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema took six days to produce a winner.

In Michigan, where Democratic Senator Gary Peters could be vulnerable to an upset by Republican John James, state election officials warn final results may not be available until Friday.

The outcome of tight races in Montana and South Carolina may not be known until Wednesday, according to state election and Democratic Party officials.

In Montana’s U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Steve Daines is running neck and neck with Governor Steve Bullock. In South Carolina, Graham, a three-term Republican, faces an unprecedented challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison.

If Democrats do emerge from the election with Senate control, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to let nothing stand in their way.

“We have a moral imperative to the people of America to get a whole lot done if we get the majority,” Schumer said. “Nothing is off the table.” (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)

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