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Analysis: The Senate Races

By Bill Schneider
CNN Washington

CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With Democrats holding power in the Senate by a single seat, the big question ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections is who will emerge with control of the Senate.

Republicans have three Senate seats in trouble: Arkansas, Colorado and New Hampshire.

The one most likely to switch to the Democrats, according to the latest polls is Arkansas, where Democrat Mark Pryor is leading Republican incumbent, Tim Hutchinson.

Two other Republican Senate seats to watch are Texas and North Carolina. Republicans are ahead in those states, but not safely ahead.

Democrats have three Senate seats in trouble: Missouri, South Dakota and Minnesota. The one most likely to switch to the GOP is Missouri, where polls show Jim Talent has the lead over incumbent Democrat Jean Carnahan.

Two other Democratic seats to watch are New Jersey and Georgia. Democrats are ahead in both states but by narrow margins.

Right now, the Senate stands at 50 Democratic seats, 49 Republicans and one Independent -- Jim Jeffords of Vermont. A net gain of just one seat would give Republicans control.

So what is the most likely outcome? Republicans take Missouri from the Democrats. Democrats take Arkansas from the Republicans. Even Steven.

What about the toss-up races? Split the difference. Colorado stays Republican, with Wayne Allard getting re-elected. And South Dakota re-elects Tim Johnson -- and stays Democratic.

So how would that leave matters? We would emerge from Election Day with Democrats holding 49 seats, Republicans 49, and one Independent.

And one race still to be decided.

That would be Louisiana, the perpetual exception. The election in Louisiana next week is an all-party primary, with one Democrat and three Republicans running.

Polls indicate that incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu will come in first, but with less than 50 percent of the vote. So she'll be forced into a runoff December 7 against whichever Republican comes in second.

If that happens, the Louisiana runoff would not just be between Mary Landrieu and a Republican. It would be for control of the Senate.

And it would be the last race before campaign finance reform kicks in. So the two parties could spend all their leftover soft money in that runoff.

With so much at stake, Louisiana could become the new Florida, and once again, we won't know the outcome for a month after Election Day.

Haven't we done this before?

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