By TOM RAUM
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON — Democrats took Senate seats away from Republicans in Ohio, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania on Tuesday but the GOP battled hard to retain its control of the chamber.
Seizing on voter discontent with President Bush and the war in Iraq, Democrats mounted challenges for Republican-held seats in four other states but were behind in two them. They need six to take a majority.
“I think we will hold control of the Senate,” Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman said on CNN.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey, son of a popular former governor, soundly defeated incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative and third-ranking member of the Senate GOP leadership. Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown easily beat GOP incumbent Mike DeWine in Ohio, a state where Republican scandals were devastating for the party.
Former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse defeated incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. Chafee is an openly anti-war Republican who consistently voted against President Bush on legislation.
Republicans held on to leads in two battleground states with GOP incumbents — Tennessee and Missouri — but were behind in two others, Virginia and Montana. Democrats needed to win three of them to get control.
Even if they don’t get a majority, Democrats will make it harder for Bush to enact his agenda his final two years in office by holding more seats in the Senate.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate in 2000 but running as an independent after losing the Democratic primary, kept his seat from Connecticut.
In New Jersey, Sen. Bob Menendez held off a strong challenge from Republican Tom Kean Jr., son of a former governor, to keep the seat in Democratic hands. Menendez had been viewed as the most vulnerable of 17 Senate Democrats seeking re-election.
Democrats also kept their seat in another important race in Maryland, where Rep. Ben Cardin held off a late surge by Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele to succeed retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes.
Former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, considering a Democratic bid for the White House in 2008, easily won re-election to a second term from New York.
Lieberman will be one of two independents in the new Senate. Rep. Bernie Sanders, an eight-terms congressman who calls himself a socialist, won the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords, also an independent. Both Lieberman and Sanders have said they will align themselves with Democrats.
By TOM RAUM
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