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4 ways the election could tip the balance of power in Washington
Everybody's focused on the presidential election, but what about the House and the Senate? A quick guide to the congressional scenarios
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joins members of the Democratic House caucus on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 21 to call on Congress to continue working on legislation before recessing for the fall elections.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joins members of the Democratic House caucus on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 21 to call on Congress to continue working on legislation before recessing for the fall elections.
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resident Obama and Mitt Romney headed into Election Day nearly tied in the polls, but, of course, they're not the only ones on the ballot. In the congressional battles, Democrats are counting on a couple of big wins to maintain control of the Senate. Meanwhile, Republicans, virtually assured of retaining leadership of the House of Representatives, are hoping to strengthen their majority by picking up key seats. How could Tuesday's voting tip the balance of power in Washington? Here's a look at the possibilities:

If Romney wins...
...and Democrats keep the Senate:
"Republicans started this year thinking they would grab control of the Senate because they were only defending 10 of the 33 seats at stake on Election Day," says Alan Fram at The Associated Press. "That seems unlikely now thanks to controversial rape statements by GOP candidates in Missouri and Indiana, the retirement of popular Maine GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe, and strong races run by Democratic incumbents in Florida and Michigan." Democrats don't have a real chance to seize the House, so Congress will probably remain split, with a solid GOP majority in the House and a narrow Democratic one in the Senate. So a President Romney would probably be confronted with a Congress that remains "what the current one has been for President Barack Obama — a headache."

...and the GOP takes the Senate:
At the last minute, a wave of outside money poured into Senate races in Ohio, Arizona, and Missouri — once thought to be lost causes for the GOP, say Jonathan Weisman and Derek Willis at The New York Times, suggesting that "neither party believes that the balance of power in the next Senate is set." Faced with possible losses in Indiana, Maine, and Massachusetts — where Sen. Scott Brown is in a tight race with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren — Republicans are hoping to sweep five contests where they're ahead or nearly tied: Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin. If the GOP candidates can pull it off, their party could battle to a tie in the Senate, which, with a Republican in the White House and his vice president casting tie-breaking Senate votes, would put the GOP firmly in the driver's seat and help Romney deliver on his promise to reverse Obama's policies on everything from health care to taxes.  

If Obama wins...
...and Democrats keep the Senate:
"The party that wins the 2012 elections will claim a mandate on a range of policies, notably on taxes and the size of government," say the editors of The Hill. Democrats are in a pretty good position to retain the Senate, even if they're heading to victory "less assuredly" than the GOP is in the House. Still, let's face it: "The House and Senate elections are hugely important, but despite any consoling (and inevitable) spin to the contrary, the winning party will be the one that controls the White House." If Obama wins with the Senate on his side, he'll implement ObamaCare and press forward with his plan to raise taxes on families making more than $250,000, and it will be harder for the GOP to stand in his way.

...and the GOP takes the Senate:
No matter who wins, "the nation's chief executive will be dealing with a Congress no closer to bridging the ideological chasm and showing no inclination to end the months of dysfunction," say Donna Cassata and Alan Fram at The Associated Press. "Tea party numbers are certain to tick up in the Senate with Republican Ted Cruz heavily favored in Texas and Deb Fischer looking to grab the Nebraska seat. In the House, the movement that propelled the GOP to the majority in 2010 will be even more emboldened even if a few of the big-name tea partiers lose." In the Senate, "moderate Republicans and Democrats from Massachusetts and Montana could be gone," making it less likely than ever that anyone will reach across the aisle. Regardless of whether the GOP wins a narrow majority or the Dems hold on, nobody will have a filibuster-proof majority, so Obama will face the same gridlock over deficit reduction, taxes, and other issues that he faced before.

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