33 seats up for grabs to gain Senate control

(Toledo News Now) – Most of the election talk is centered on the race for president, but the Senate could see a power shift come Tuesday.

In the Republican wave of 2010, Democrats lost control of the house, but they kept the Senate. Democrats control 53 seats in the 100-member chamber. Republicans need four to take over if President Obama wins re-election. They need three if Romney wins, since Paul Ryan would serve as the tiebreaker. That leaves 33 seats up for grabs. It is possible, although it looks increasingly unlikely that Republicans will be able to gain control of the Senate.

One reason is Maine Republican Olympia Snowe's unexpected retirement from a body she described as "hopelessly partisan." Republicans will likely lose that seat.

Another reason is the self-inflicted wounds, such as this comment from Republican Todd Akin, who is running in Missouri:

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that thing down," said Akin.

Those words sparked an outcry, putting a victory over Democrat Claire McCaskill - a top GOP target - in doubt.

Then there was this remark by Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock, explaining why he opposes abortion, even in the case of rape:

"Life is a gift from God and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," said Mourdock.

GOP operatives say that statement, while inarticulate, is in line with the feelings of many conservative voters. Still, it may have opened the door for his Democratic opponent Joe Donnelly.

The Senate will need to tackle some big issues in the coming months, such as how to reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, along with a series of tax hikes and spending cuts next year that could threaten the economic recovery. That is where the balance of power will really be significant.

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