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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Battle for Congress Going to the Wire

WASHINGTON -- After decades in which control of the U.S. Congress rarely shifted, this year's House and Senate races are so close that the dominant party may be relegated to the minority for the second election in a row.


Republicans approach the Nov. 5 elections holding slender majorities in both chambers and outspending their Democratic opponents overall. They grabbed control of Congress in 1994 after four decades spent mostly in the minority.


With President Clinton holding a formidable lead over Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole, congressional Democrats are looking to gain enough momentum to pick up the 18 seats they need to capture the House, assuming Clinton is re-elected and Vice President Al Gore gets the tie-breaking vote.


Democratic strategists are also hoping for the three additional seats needed to control the Senate.


Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate and a 235-198 majority in the House, which has one independent and one vacancy.


"In 1994, there was a lot of anger against incumbents, a lot of people were excited about politics," said John Pitney, a political science professor specializing in Congress at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California.


That has faded, he said, and this year there is less excitement.


That could hurt Democrats because their supporters tend to turn out less, experts say.


As congressional minorities often do, Democrats have sought to find a national issue on which to campaign -- in this case a referendum on House Speaker Newt Gingrich.


Polls show that Gingrich is one of the country's least popular politicians, and Democratic candidates routinely accuse their Republican opponents of supporting his efforts to trim education and environmental programs and to pluck savings from Medicare.


They have been assisted by the AFL-CIO, which has pledged to spend $35 million to unseat first-term Republicans who came into Congress on the Gingrich wave two years ago.


Many Republican candidates rarely mention the speaker. They emphasize local issues, their efforts to cut taxes and spending and bills passed late this year revamping welfare and slightly extending health-care coverage as evidence of a productive Republican Congress.


In the last weeks of the campaign, Republicans launched a counter-attack to the labor efforts that included a television barrage financed by the national party and a $4 million independent campaign waged by a business coalition.


There are 34 Senate races, and each party has two incumbents in close races. But Republicans gained a big advantage with the retirement of four Democratic senators from the South, In the House, about 35 Republican incumbents appear to be in close contests, mostly freshmen.











An additional half-dozen seats that had been held by retiring Republicans are up for grabs.


Republicans were helped by the retirements of 19 southern Democrats, and looked to make gains in 11 other seats being vacated by Democrats.


A handful of Democratic incumbents appeared to be in difficult races.


State (Electoral College Votes) C D P


Alabama (9) 41 45 7


Alaska (3) n/a


Arizona (8) 44 36 3


Arkansas (6) 54 37 5


California (54) 52 34 6


Colorado (8) 43 39 6


Connecticut (8) 50 34 9


Delaware (3) 46 39 6


District of Columbia (3) n/a


Florida (25) 47 39 6


Georgia (13) 45 43 2


Hawaii (4) 52 35 3


Idaho (4) 31 45 14


Illinois (22) 50 36 6


Indiana (12) 38 41 11


Iowa (7) 46 36 5


Kansas (6) 38 50 4


State (Electoral Votes) C D P


Kentucky (8) 46 40 7


Louisiana (9) 50 33 7


Maine (4) 48 37 7


Maryland (10) 51 38 5


Massachusetts (12) 56 33 5


Michigan (18) 42 32 10


Minnesota (10) 55 33 5


Mississippi (7) 39 49 4


Missouri (11) 44 40 7


Montana (3) 41 45 7


Nebraska (5) 34 46 10


Nevada (4) n/a


New Hampshire (4) 48 35 8


New Jersey (15) 49 30 7


New Mexico (5) 49 34 4


New York (33) 56 34 5


North Carolina (14) 42 47 2


State (Electoral Votes) C D P


North Dakota (3) 33 47 6


Ohio (21) 47 39 6


Oklahoma (8) 39 47 6


Oregon (7) n/a


Pennsylvania (23) 48 36 7


Rhode Island (4) 54 23 9


South Carolina (8) 38 51 8


South Dakota (3) n/a


Tennessee (11) 47 42 3


Texas (32) 42 47 5


Utah (5) 35 44 8


Vermont (3) n/a


Virginia (13) 42 45 5


Washington (11) 47 38 8


West Virginia (5) 48 38 5


Wisconsin (11) 46 39 7


Wyoming (3) 36 46 5