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GOP grabs 3 Senate seats from Dems, but lose W.Va.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans grabbed Senate seats from
Democrats in Arkansas, North Dakota and Indiana on Tuesday, but a
Democrat's win in West Virginia may preserve his party's Senate
majority.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin held off millionaire Republican
John Raese to keep a Democrat in the seat held for half a century
by the late Robert C. Byrd.
To gain the 10 seats they need for a Senate majority,
Republicans will have to win all the remaining tight races, and
pull off upsets in California and Washington.
Tea party champions won high-profile races in Florida and
Kentucky, spearheading a likely cadre of libertarian-leaning
Republicans who will press party leaders to be more adamant about
lower taxes, less spending and smaller government.
Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida rocked the GOP
establishment last spring by routing leadership favorites in party
primaries. Then they beat back Democrats' efforts to paint them as
too extreme, winning comfortably on Tuesday.
In Utah, tea party-backed Mike Lee won easily after snatching
the Republican nomination from Sen. Bob Bennett in March.
Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln became the first senator to lose
in the midterm elections, falling to GOP Rep. John Boozman in a
state that President Barack Obama lost by 20 percentage points two
years ago.
Conservatives said Lincoln, who won her first two Senate
elections comfortably, was too close to Obama, while liberals said
she wasn't loyal enough. She originally voted for Obama's
contentious health care bill, but later voted against its final
approval.
Indiana voters sent Republican Dan Coats back to the chamber
after a 12-year absence. Coats, who spent a decade in the Senate
before stepping down in 1998, defeated Democratic Rep. Brad
Ellsworth. The seat is being vacated by Democrat Evan Bayh.
In North Dakota, Republican Gov. John Hoeven easily won the
Senate seat that retiring Democrat Byron Dorgan held for 18 years.
But Connecticut's attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, kept his
state's open Senate seat in Democratic hands, fending off pro
wrestling entrepreneur Linda McMahon.
Christine O'Donnell, another tea party darling, lost to Democrat
Chris Coons in Delaware. She also had won a stunning GOP primary
victory, beating longtime Rep. Mike Castle. But she failed to
extend her popularity to the broader November electorate.
Paul, who beat Democratic state Attorney General Jack Conway, is
an ophthalmologist who had not sought office before. His father is
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a hero to many libertarians. He won the
seat vacated by GOP Sen. Jim Bunning.
Rubio, a former Florida House speaker, is not a political
newcomer. But he defied his party's establishment nonetheless,
refusing to stand aside for Gov. Charlie Crist in the Senate race.
Crist ran as a third-party candidate, but Rubio defeated him and
Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek. The Florida seat's previous two
occupants were Republicans who stepped down.
In New Hampshire, Republican Kelly Ayotte kept her party in
control of the seat being vacated by Judd Gregg. The former state
attorney general defeated Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes.
Rob Portman won the Ohio Senate race, keeping a Republican in
the seat that Sen. George Voinovich is vacating. Portman spent 12
years in the U.S. House starting in 1993. He later was budget
director and then U.S. trade representative under President George
W. Bush. Portman defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.
In Kansas, GOP Rep. Jerry Moran won the Senate seat vacated by
Republican Sam Brownback, who was elected governor Tuesday.
And Rep. Roy Blunt kept Missouri's open Senate seat in
Republican hands.
Easily winning re-election as expected were Sens. David Vitter,
R-La., Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, John McCain, R-Ariz., Jim DeMint,
R-S.C., Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Richard Burr,
R-N.C., John Thune, R-S.D., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Patrick Leahy,
D-Vt., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and
Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
Republicans expect to cut deeply into the Democrats' Senate
majority, even if they fall short of winning control.
Republicans needed to win 10 of the dozen Democratic seats in
play, without losing any of their own, to become the Senate's new
majority party. A nine-seat loss would produce a 50-50 tie that
Vice President Joe Biden, the Senate's official president, would
break in the Democrats' favor.
Compelling story lines abound:
-The Senate's most powerful member, Majority Leader Harry Reid
of Nevada, could lose to a political outsider, tea party champion
Sharron Angle.
-A tempestuous three-way race in Alaska could allow Democrat
Scott McAdams to win a once-hopeless race for GOP Sen. Lisa
Murkowski's seat. Murkowski is running a rare write-in campaign
after losing the Republican primary to another tea partier, Joe
Miller.
- Three-term Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, was in
severe danger of losing to GOP newcomer Ron Johnson.
Arguably the four closest races are for Democratic-held seats in
Nevada, Colorado, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
An Angle win over Reid would mark a spectacular achievement for
tea partiers, the libertarian-leaning movement that emerged last
year and maintains an uneasy relationship with the Republican
Party.
Republican Ken Buck of Colorado, another tea party favorite, has
run a neck-and-neck race against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet,
appointed to fill the remaining term of Interior Secretary Ken
Salazar but running a strong campaign in his first-ever race.
The race to fill the open Illinois Senate seat once held by
Obama pits Republican Mark Kirk, a five-term House member, against
state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak beat
Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in the Senate
primary, but he has struggled against GOP nominee Pat Toomey.
Democrats technically hold 57 Senate seats, but two independent
senators caucus with the party.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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