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US Senate control at stake in November

NEW YORK -- Republicans once seemed poised to take control of the U.S. Senate, but now face an uphill battle after nominating several controversial candidates, while some Democratic contenders have run stronger than expected campaigns.

The razor-thin race for the White House has overshadowed the fight for control of Congress. But the stakes are high in the Senate contests.

With Republicans expected to retain control of the House of Representatives, a Republican Senate would give the party full control of the U.S. government if Mitt Romney wins the presidency. If President Barack Obama is re-elected, he hopes to have a Democratic-controlled Senate to counteract the Republican House, advance his agenda and defend his signature legislative victory, his health care overhaul, which Republicans have vowed to repeal.

Voters will decide on a third of the Senate's 100 seats on Nov 6. Democrats hold a 53-47 advantage, counting two independents who caucus with them, and must defend 23 seats, including several gained during a Democratic wave in 2006. To win a majority, Republicans need a net pickup of four seats if Obama is re-elected, or three if Romney prevails. The vice president casts a tie-breaking vote in an evenly divided Senate.

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