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Senate Races 2006: An Early Look

Aaron D. Spears arrives at the Daytime Emmy Awards on Sunday Aug. 30, 2009, in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Matt Sayles
By CBS News' Allison Davis

Without the lure of a fight for the White House this year, the 2006 midterm elections will serve as a mark of the nation's political mood.

At the midpoint of President Bush's second term, and with only two years until his successor will be known, the hottest, most contested U.S. Senate races dominate the talk of Washington politics.

Democrats are hoping they can regain the majority they lost in 2002 while Republicans look to increase their hold on the Senate for the third consecutive election.

In order for the Democrats to take control of the Senate, they must add six new seats while retaining all 18 Democratic-held seats being contested. This early in the election year, a Democratic majority seems unlikely, but the makeup of the Senate could look quite different come 2007.

Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report predicts "more likely (there will be) a gain of between 2 and 4 seats" for the Democrats.

And while the defining issues of 2006 have yet to take shape, Duffy further contends, "Democrats certainly want a nationalized election and some of the factors that create one are present, but they haven't hit on quite the right message yet."

Republicans maintain they are the ones with the agenda and deserve to continue their legislative course.

The elections are over nine months away but here are some interesting races to watch from now until November:

  • Montana: Three-term Republican Sen. Conrad Burns is no stranger to controversy. The bombastic senator has won re-election despite accusations of sexism and several publicly documented uses of racial and ethnic slurs that, some argue, nearly cost Burns his job six years ago in a 51-48% squeaker. In 2006, with Burns linked to a fresh controversy, Democrats once again have Montana set in their sights.

    Fending off accusations of connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and with dropping approval numbers, Burns recently began airing a 60-second advertisement defending his record.