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Both parties find hope in early US midterm voting

November 1, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Early votes in the U.S. midterm elections soared past 15 million across 31 states on Friday, an outpouring that is giving hopeful Republicans as well as nervous Democrats cause for optimism heading into the final weekend of a campaign with control of the Senate, the U.S. House and 36 governorships at stake.

Republicans need to gain six seats to come away with the biggest prize in Tuesday’s election — control of the Senate during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office. The party is all but certain to hold its majority in the House.

Republicans took a big lead in mail-in votes cast in Colorado, where Democratic Sen. Mark Udal is trying to survive a challenge from Rep. Cory Gardner. Colorado is a must-win state if Democrats want to keep control of the Senate.

In the Senate races, Republicans pointed to a strong early-vote performance in Iowa as evidence that Joni Ernst was a step ahead in her bid to capture a seat for the party.

But in Georgia, Democrats said a strong early turnout by African-Americans in the counties around Atlanta was a good sign for Michelle Nunn, running for a seat long out of the party’s reach.

As candidates headed into a final weekend of campaigning, Democratic hopes of holding a Senate seat in Arkansas appeared to be fading, and Republicans already appeared assured of gains in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana.

Strategists in both parties agreed privately that races in Louisiana and Georgia were probably headed for runoffs, and several Republicans expressed concern about Kansas, where polls showed Sen. Pat Roberts was in a tough race to keep a seat held by Republicans for decades.

Obama, shunned by many Democratic Senate candidates in tough races, campaigned in Rhode Island for gubernatorial contender Gina Raimondo as he continued a campaign tour of the northeastern region of New England.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates are locked in tight races across New England, a troubling trend for the party that is representative of its broader struggles as Republicans capitalize on Obama’s poor approval ratings to push their midterm offensive into one of the nation’s last Democratic strongholds.

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Associated Press reporters Philip Elliott in Washington, Darlene Superville in Providence, Rhode Island, Bill Barrow in Atlanta, Kelly Kissel in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Catherine Lucey in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this story.

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