Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Democrats Cite New Hope in Bid to Retake Senate

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 — Six weeks before Election Day, the Democrats suddenly face a map with unexpected opportunities in their battle for control of the Senate.

In Virginia, a state that few expected to be seriously competitive, Senator George Allen, a Republican, looks newly vulnerable after a series of controversies over his racial views, strategists in both parties say. In Tennessee, another Southern state long considered safely red, Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., a Democrat, has run a strong campaign that has kept that state in contention.

Elsewhere, Democratic challengers are either ahead or neck and neck in five states held by the Republicans — Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — according to political strategists in both parties and the latest polls.

All of these races could shift direction in a matter of days, let alone six weeks, and Republicans are counting on their superior finances and large blocks of television advertising to hold the line. Democrats also have their own vulnerabilities, particularly in New Jersey, where Senator Robert D. Menendez has run behind his Republican challenger, State Senator Thomas H. Kean Jr., in recent polls.


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