WASHINGTON (CNN) — A Democratic takeover of the Senate is appearing likely after an ongoing canvass of votes in Virginia produced no significant changes in the outcome of the hard-fought race led by Democratic challenger Jim Webb, sources told CNN Wednesday.
Wednesday night, with Webb leading Republican Sen. George 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.
A source close to Allen also told CNN that the senator “has no intention of dragging this out.”
Meanwhile, a Webb aide told CNN that he plans a formal news conference Thursday morning to declare victory.
A victory by Webb would put the new Senate 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 very little dent in Webb’s lead.
While stopping just short of saying Allen will concede, the source said it is a “daunting proposition” for the senator to overcome Webb’s lead.
President Bush and Democratic leaders Wednesday were talking up a new era of cooperation — but warned neither would roll over for the other.
As control of the House moves to the Democrats, Bush said immigration and minimum wage measures were areas of common ground to discuss when he meets Democratic speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi Thursday.
“We can work together over the next two years,” the president said.
But he added: “She’s 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, in line to be first female Speaker of the House, told CNN: “Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern and absolutely willing to work in a bipartisan way.” (Pelosi’s ambitions on breaking the marble ceiling 12:45)
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)
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.”
The Iraq question
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. (Read latest House story)