Tuesday November 06, 2012 | 03:03 PM

WASHINGTON – According to most polls, independent Angus King seems likely to win Maine’s Senate seat. But if that happens, King’s immediate influence as a freshman in the stodgy Senate would depend on what occurs in races elsewhere.

Below are a few other things to watch out for tonight as the nationwide results roll in.

The Senate is currently comprised of 47 Republicans, 51 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. To re-capture the chamber, Republicans would need to gain four seats if President Obama is re-elected and three seats if Mitt Romney wins since the vice president serves as the tie-breaker.

A King victory would set back Republicans another seat, assuming all of the speculation that he would caucus with the Democrats is correct. Obviously, the closer the Senate split, the more potential for King to attempt to use his "independence" to influence key votes.

Polls suggest that Republicans are likely to gain the Democratic seat now held by retiring Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. But the math is fuzzier in other states, meaning King’s sway in the Senate would be impacted by the collective outcome of these battlegrounds:

  • Virginia: Two former governors -- Republican George Allen and Democrat . Tim Kaine -- are locked in what is the country’s most expensive Senate campaign, and the outcome is unclear. The seat is now held by a Democrat.

  • Montana: This race is another tie between incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican challenger Dennis Rehberg.

  • Wisconsin: Yet another toss-up between Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson and Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin. Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl is retiring.

  • Indiana: Longtime Sen. Richard Lugar’s loss to Richard Mourdock in the Republican primary – combined with Mourdock’s controversial statements about abortion – means Democrats have a shot at this seat in a typically solid Republican state.

  • Massachusetts: Incumbent moderate Republican Sen. Scott Brown is trailing Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, although the race remains close.

  • North Dakota: Republican Rep. Rick Berg is leading Democrat Heidi Heitcamp in the polls but the race remains close. A Berg victory would change this seat from blue to red.

  • Nevada: Republican Sen. Dean Heller is leading Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley in the polls but some observers say it might be a close election.

  • Connecticut: Democrat Chris Murphy has led Republican Linda McMahon by a few percentage points in recent polls for the seat being vacated by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Several prognosticators have predicted that the Senate could end up exactly where it is today, with 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans and two independents (including King) caucusing with the Democrats.


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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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