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Republicans running short on time and money to defend Senate majority

Washington

REPUBLICANS are running short of time, money and options to stop Democrats from winning a majority of seats in the US Senate, and with them in full control of Congress, in an election that is now only two weeks away.

US President Donald Trump's slide in opinion polls is weighing on Senate Republicans in 10 competitive races, while Democrats are playing defence over two seats, increasing the odds of Mr Trump's Republicans losing their 53-47 majority on Nov 3.

That gives Democrats a good chance of adding a Senate majority to their control of the House of Representatives, which could either stymie Mr Trump in a second term or usher in a new era of Democratic dominance in Washington if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins the White House.

"The Republican Party probably has to start thinking about what it can salvage between now and Nov 3," said Republican strategist Rory Cooper, a one-time aide to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

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While demographic changes were long expected to work against Republican incumbents, including North Carolina's Thom Tillis, Arizona's Martha McSally and Colorado's Cory Gardner, powerful Republican senators, including South Carolina's Lindsey Graham and Iowa's Joni Ernst, are also facing strong challengers.

Americans have been voting early at an unprecedented pace as they look for ways to avoid exposure to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 220,000 people in the United States.

Twenty-eight million people have cast early ballots.

Democrats have also reported a surge in late campaign donations, outraising Republicans in 12 competitive races by nearly US$190 million - US$315 million versus US$128 million - during the third quarter, showed Federal Election Commission documents.

Republicans are seeing "obvious signals that there's no path forward", as one Republican aide put it, unless their incumbents can find ways to distance themselves from Mr Trump and his handling of the pandemic without alienating his supporters.

But not all is doom and gloom for Republicans, who believe they can still eke out a 51-seat majority by capturing Democratic seats in Alabama and Michigan, and denying Democrats victory in North Carolina, Iowa and other states with strong Republican constituencies.

The memory of Mr Trump's surprise win four years ago after polls showed rival Hillary Clinton with a modest lead, burns brightly for Democratic candidates and voters.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, Republican incumbents have sought to concentrate on their own individual races, rather than Mr Trump.

Others have turned on him. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, who is expected to easily win re-election, told constituents this week that Mr Trump "sells out allies" and "treated the presidency like a business opportunity", the Washington Examiner reported last week. REUTERS

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