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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Democrats edge closer to Senate control - CNN.com

Democrats edge closer to Senate control

Story Highlights

•NEW: Bush to make Rose Garden statement at 11:35 a.m. ET
Source says GOP Sen. Allen has "no intention of dragging this out"
Bush invites Democrats to White House, promises "new era of cooperation"
House speaker-to-be says Americans have called for "new direction"

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats could learn Thursday whether they will take control of the Senate, as a canvass of votes in Virginia shows no significant change in the small lead held by Jim Webb, sources told CNN.

A source close to Webb's Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. George Allen, said the senator "has no intention of dragging this out."

Wednesday night, with Webb leading Allen by about 7,200 votes and the canvass about half complete, The Associated Press declared Webb the winner.

CNN does not declare a winner when race results are less than 1 percent and the potential loser may request a recount vote. (Full Senate news)

A Webb aide told CNN that the Virginia Democrat plans a formal news conference Thursday morning to declare victory.

With the House squarely in the hands of Democrats and a Senate power shift likely, President Bush had breakfast Thursday with outgoing House and Senate Republican leaders and then met with his Cabinet.

After the meeting, Bush is expected to make a statement in the White House Rose Garden at 11:35 a.m. ET.

The president also planned to have lunch with House speaker-to-be Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

Though the Senate's fate was still pending, a victory by Webb would put the lineup at 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two independents -- Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who have said they would caucus with the Democrats.

That would give the Democrats the 51 votes they need to claim a majority for the first time since 2002.

A source close to Allen told CNN that the initial state review will be finished Thursday, because it is "wrapping up sooner rather than later" with little dent in Webb's lead.

While stopping short of saying Allen will concede, the source said it is a "daunting proposition" for the senator to overcome Webb's lead.

Meanwhile, one day after Bush spoke of a new era of cooperation with Democrats, the president was already looking to the future and discussing areas where he could find common ground with congressional Democrats -- immigration and minimum wage topped that list, he said. (Watch top Senate Democrat Harry Reid discuss the future -- 2:33Video)

"We can work together over the next two years," the president said.

But he added that Pelosi is "not going to abandon her principles, and I'm not going to abandon mine. But I do believe we have an opportunity to find some common ground to move forward on."

Pelosi, who would be the first female House speaker, told CNN: "Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern and absolutely willing to work in a bipartisan way." (Watch Pelosi talk of breaking the 'marble ceiling' -- 12:45Video)

She has previously said a Democratic-led Congress will not be a rubber stamp for the White House. On Wednesday, she said she hopes there will be cooperation with congressional investigations -- part of the checks-and-balances system built into the Constitution.

Pelosi early Wednesday repeated a call for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to go, and just hours later the president announced his loyal aide was resigning -- a decision Bush said was made before the election.

"The president got the message, thank heavens," Pelosi said. "I think it signals a new change, I hope for the better, in Iraq."

Bush nominated Robert Gates to fill Rumsfeld's vacancy. Gates is an ex-CIA chief who also worked on the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that is making recommendations to Bush on how to proceed in Iraq. (Full story)

Disappointed Bush takes responsibility

If the Virginia result is confirmed, Democrats will take over the Senate and the House of Representatives in January, and Bush said he would work with whomever was in charge. ( Watch to see what Bush's first bipartisan act was after the election -- 2:44)

Bush admitted he was disappointed with Tuesday's results and took his share of responsibility as party leader.

But he looked forward rather than back. "The message yesterday was clear: The American people want their leaders in Washington to set aside partisan differences, conduct ourselves in an ethical manner and work together to address the challenges facing our nation."

Pelosi, who voted against invading Iraq, said the Democrats' victory meant the American people were calling for a "new direction."

And she was adamant about a new direction for the war in Iraq. "This is something that we must work on together with the president. We know that 'stay the course' is not working," she said.

Bush countered by saying his leadership style will not change.

"I'm still going to try to speak plainly about what I think are the important priorities of the country, and winning this war on terror is by far the most important priority," he said.

"And making sure this economy continues to grow is an important priority. And making sure our children have a good education is an important priority."

Bush also called House Speaker Dennis Hastert to thank him for his hard work. Hastert is not expected to seek a leadership role in the new Congress. (Democrats win the House)

CNN's John King, Dana Bash and Ed Henry contributed to this report.

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