A Republican-led Senate still within grasp

Amid recent reports in the New York Times and other liberal publications that Republican efforts to regain the Senate in November are diminishing, the GOP is still on track to gain the four necessary seats to have control of the upper chamber beginning in January. The GOP could wind up with 52 seats.

The New York Times cited contests in Arizona and Florida as getting out of reach for Republicans. But few in the punditocracy expect that former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona will be the first Democrat to win a Senate seat from Arizona since 1988, and even fewer completely write off the chances of Rep. Connie Mack, namesake-son of a revered former senator in the Sunshine State

Other races once written off as likely Democratic wins are shaping up differently. In Connecticut, despite a so-so performance in their first televised debate, businesswoman and 2010 GOP nominee Linda McMahon is still in a tight contest with liberal Rep. Chris Murphy for the seat of Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman. McMahon is the first defeated Republican Senate nominee from the Nutmeg State to be given a second nomination since Prescott Bush, father and grandfather of two U.S. presidents, who lost a Senate race in 1950 and came back to win in 1952.

Moreover, a true upset could be brewing in Pennsylvania. Out of nowhere, coal operator and Republican candidate Tom Smith is within striking distance of Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Casey. Smith has poured more than $10 million of his own wealth into the campaign, hitting the administration hard on its ???war on coal??? and has closed the gap with Casey to only a few points in several statewide polls.

With 33 Senate races to be decided in two weeks, 23 Democratic-held seats and only 10 held by Republicans will be voted on. There are 11 open seats???seven in which Democratic incumbents are leaving and four with departing Republican incumbents. Only one is an involuntary retirement???Indiana???s Richard Lugar, who lost the GOP primary to Richard Mourdock.

Bottom line, Republicans only need four seats, and the majority of these races are within the margin of error. With a little luck and a strong turnout, Republicans in charge come January is possible.