Where things stand

Democrats have declared victory in five Senate races, and they lead in the sixth they need for control.

Published November 8, 2006 3:35PM (EST)

Going into Tuesday night, Democrats needed to pick up six seats to take control of the Senate. Four -- Pennsylvania, Missouri, Rhode Island and Ohio -- are absolutely, positively in the bank. Here's where things stand in the other two.

Montana: With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Democrat Jon Tester leads Republican Sen. Conrad Burns 48.9 percent to 48.6 percent, with about 1,600 votes between them. That may not be a big separation, but it's important to remember just how sparsely populated Montana is. Roughly 400,000 people cast votes in the state Tuesday.

Tester told supporters Tuesday night that they'd be able to "party" soon enough. In an interview with CNN, he said: "I like the position we're in. I think we're going to win." Burns spent much of Tuesday night in a hotel room in Billings, watching returns with his wife. She said that he'd lost his voice campaigning.

Under Montana law, a candidate can request a recount if less than half a percentage point divides the winner and the loser; the state pays for the recount if the margin is a quarter of a percentage point or less. At the moment, Tester's lead puts it in the category in which Burns could request a recount but would have to pay for it himself. If Tester can build his margin even slightly as the last of the votes are counted, he could put even a self-sponsored recount out of the Republican's reach.

Virginia: With virtually all of the precincts tallied -- but with some absentee ballots still to be counted -- Democrat Jim Webb leads Republican George Allen by margin of 49.6 percent to 49.3 percent, with about 8,000 votes standing between them. Webb has declared victory -- "The votes are in and we won," he said very, very early this morning -- but Allen seems to believe that a recount is coming.

Under Virginia law, a candidate who finishes within half a percentage point of another can request a state-sponsored recount. If the margin is between one and one-half of a percentage point, the candidate can still request a recount, but he has to foot the bill himself. DSCC chairman Chuck Schumer has predicted that absentee ballots still to be counted will put Webb's lead outside the recount range.

The Hotline says that Virginia officials will announce an "informal winner" in the race -- CNN says that announcement could come today -- but that officials will spend the next several days "canvassing" to count provisional ballots.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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