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Polls Show Senate Still Up for Grabs

With political analysts predicting a likely Democratic take over in the U.S. House, all eyes turn to a few races for seats in the Senate , which, according to a series of independent polls, remains completely up for grabs.

The surveys were conducted by Mason-Dixon for MSNBC and other media outlets covering 12 Senate races -- eight held by Republicans, four by Democrats.

Two GOP-held seats are likely party switches, according to the Mason-Dixon surveys. In Pennsylvania, state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) leads Sen. Rick Santorum (R) 52 percent to 39 percent, while in Ohio Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) led Sen. Mike DeWine (R) 50 percent to 44 percent.

Four Republican-controlled seats -- two of which appeared to be all but gone as recently as a week ago -- are too close to call.

In Rhode Island, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) holds a statistically insignificant 46 percent to 45 percent edge over former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D). In Montana, Sen. Conrad Burns (R) and state Sen. Jon Tester (D) are tied at 47 percent. Strategists in both parties agree that the two races have tightened but draw different conclusions. Republicans see the results as evidence that independent voters are choosing their candidates; Democrats argue that the movement is simply GOP voters finally lining up behind their nominee.

Of late, Republicans have been slightly less optimistic about their chances in Missouri and Virginia. State Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) held a 46 percent to 45 percent edge over Sen. Jim Talent (R) in the Show Me State, while former Navy Secretary Jim Webb (D) led Sen George Allen (R) 46 percent to 45 percent in Virginia.

The contest in Tennessee -- where Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D) is facing former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker (R) -- appears to be slipping away as a takeover opportunity for Democrats. Mason-Dixon showed Corker with a 50 percent to 38 percent lead. Ford's campaign insists its internal polling shows the race still tight.

Meanwhile in Arizona, Sen. Jon Kyl (R) held a solid 49 percent to 41 percent margin over real estate developer Jim Pederson (D).

Mason-Dixon did polling in four Senate races with Democratic incumbents. Maryland is the only one where Republicans appear to have a legitimate chance to pull an upset. According to the poll, Rep. Ben Cardin (D) holds a 47 percent to 44 percent lead over Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) -- an advantage that falls within the survey's margin of error.

Democratic candidates lead by seven points in New Jersey and by 16 points in both Washington (poll results) and Michigan (poll results).

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 5, 2006; 3:48 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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