Senate Hinges On Virginia, Montana

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) speaks after voting results showed a very close race November 7, 2006 in Richmond, Virginia, left. Senate candidate Jim Webb, D-Va., gestures during remarks at an election night event on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006 in Vienna, Va.
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The battle for the Senate hung on a few thousand cliffhanger votes in two states Wednesday, long after polls closed in an election that swept Democrats into power in the House and delivered a rebuke of GOP scandal, the Iraq war and the course of a nation.

A succession of tainted Republicans lost seats as their leaders lost power, a stinging referendum on the ways of Washington. A large majority of voters surveyed across the country said their disgust with corruption influenced their choice.

Democrats took solid control in the House, rebounding after a dozen years in the minority, and dismantled most if not all of the GOP Senate majority.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, set to become the first female speaker in history, said on Wednesday that American voters "spoke for change and they spoke for a new direction for all Americans."

She said voters specifically demanded a change in course on the war in Iraq and urged Mr. Bush "to listen to the voice of the people."

"Democrats are prepared to lead," she told a news conference in the Capitol. "We are prepared to govern in a bipartisan way."

President Bush called Pelosi with congratulations Wednesday morning after Democrats took firm control of the House, rebounding after a dozen years in the minority.

Pelosi said she told Mr. Bush she was ready to work with him. "The success of the president is always good for the country, and I hope that we could work together for the American people. He said he thought that would happen and we would talk about it over lunch tomorrow."

President Bush will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. CBS News will provide live coverage of and a Web cast will be available on
The Senate hung in the balance Wednesday because of extremely tight races in Virginia and Montana. Democrats needed to win both to complete their grip on legislative power. Potential recounts could further lengthen the suspense.

Democrats must win both of those races to take over the Senate. If they were to win one seat, it would produce a 50-50 Senate — including two independents expected to vote with the Democrats — with Vice President Dick Cheney wielding tie-breaking authority.

As of Wednesday morning, in Virginia the race between Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen and Democrat James Webb appeared likely to be decided by absentee ballots. With almost every precinct reporting, Webb had a lead of about 7,800 votes, or three-tenths of a percent.

Teams of lawyers, political consultants and party volunteers prepared to start work as soon as local voter registrars' offices opened Wednesday. At stake were results from four precincts, reporting some absentee ballots and canvassing the totals.

Webb, a former Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan, claimed victory on the basis of the tiny lead but Allen was not conceding.

There are no automatic recounts in Virginia, but state law allows a candidate who finishes a half-percentage point or less behind to request a recount paid for by state and local governments.

With a margin greater than that but less than 1 percentage point, the trailing candidate can also seek a recount, but would have to pay the costs if the results are unchanged.

A final count, including all absentee ballots, was expected later Wednesday; no exact numbers on outstanding absentee ballots were immediately available.

But, as CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports that a recount can't formally be requested until the vote is certified on November 27th, so the final decision may not be resolved for weeks.

In Montana, Democrat Jon Tester held a 1,700 vote lead Wednesday over GOP Sen. Conrad Burns with almost all precincts reporting.

Vote tallies were still coming in Wednesday morning, more than 10 hours after polls were scheduled to close a situation caused by equipment glitches, high turnout and a recount in Yellowstone County because of errors there.

A losing candidate can request a recount at his own expense if the margin is within 1/2 of a percent, which would be a margin off roughly 2,000 votes in the race. If the margin is less than 1/4 of a percent, the state and the counties will pick up the tab.

"The lead is narrow but I think we're in a position to win," Tester said on CBS News' The Early Show "I feel very, very confident about the results of this campaign when all the votes are counted."