Early Indications in the 2006 Midterm Vote NPR's Michele Norris and Melissa Block talk with NPR's Political Correspondent Mara Liasson, who has been closely watching the nation's Senate races.

Early Indications in the 2006 Midterm Vote

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Today is Election Day and the midterm elections are unusually hard fought this time. President Bush, fighting low approval ratings and unhappiness with the war in Iraq, was battling for his party. But Democrats were optimistic about significant gains.

Voters are choosing 435 members of the House, 33 senators and 36 governors.

BLOCK: At this hour, the polls were scheduled to close in some 25 states, including many with crucial contests that will help determine who controls the next Congress.

We are projecting a few races. Democrat Ted Strickland is projected to win the governor's race in Ohio. Democrat Robert Byrd is keeping his Senate seat from West Virginia. We also project that Bernie Sanders will win the Senate seat from Vermont, and Republican Dick Lugar will win in Indiana. He was not opposed by a Democrat. We'll talk to NPR correspondents in Tennessee, Missouri and New Jersey coming up.

But first, to NPR's Mara Liasson here in the studio. And, Mara, let's talk about some of the Senate races that were most closely watching tonight, the ones that are really considered on the line here.

MARA LIASSON: I would say the ones to watch tonight are Missouri, Virginia, Rhode Island and Montana. Those are the ones that in the closing days of this campaign really showed almost dead heats between the Democrat and the Republican. If you assume that Pennsylvania and Ohio Democrats had a lead in the polls there. In Tennessee, the Republican did. The remaining key races really are those four states.

The president was in Missouri and Montana this week campaigning hard for Republicans. Those are both red states where the Republican theory was that if they could just pour enough money in and use their effective get out the vote operation, they could pull out a win. Virginia is a state that's really changing. It's getting to be more and more like a mid-Atlantic state, less like a southern state, more affluent, more diverse, more Democratic.

And Rhode Island, of course, has the distinction of being a very blue state, the only blue state where a Republican incumbent is running. That's Senator Linc Chafee, and President Bush only has a 22 percent approval rating there.

BLOCK: Okay, Mara. Stick around. We'll talk to you in a little bit. That's NPR's Mara Liasson.

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