WASHINGTON (CNN) — Even before the polls close in the midterm election, President Barack Obama is sounding gloomy about the Democrats’ chances of hanging onto the Senate.
“This is probably the worst possible group of states for Democrats since Dwight Eisenhower,” Obama told WNPR radio in Connecticut on Tuesday afternoon while polls were still open.
“There are a lot of states that are being contested where they just tend to tilt Republican,” said Obama, seemingly reconciling himself to a grim night for Democrats that could turn his final two years in the White House into a painful experience.
Vice President Joe Biden, ever the sunny optimist, isn’t ready to give up on the election just yet, and predicted Democrats would win enough crucial states to keep the Senate after a negative election campaign that cost almost $4 billion and soured an already angry public mood.
“I think we win Alaska, which you know, the pundits are saying we lose. I think we win North Carolina, which is a tough race. I think we win New Hampshire,” Biden said on WPLR radio in Connecticut.
Republicans need a net gain of six seats to claim the Senate and polls consistently suggest momentum is moving in their favor
A GOP win would give the party full control of Congress for the first time in a decade and could set the ideological battle lines for the 2016 presidential election.
Mitch McConnell, who is in line to be Senate majority leader if Republicans win, is increasingly confident. An aide told CNN’s Brianna Keilar that the Kentucky senator, who ran a tough re-election race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, had already finalized and edited his victory speech.
There were some hiccups across the country as Americans went to the polls.
Some people in Alaska were voting by flashlight after a power outage and those in Maine had to cope with a winter storm that prompted a state of emergency. In Georgia, home to a competitive Senate and governor’s race, a state website listing polling locations went down, though the secretary of state said there weren’t any voter irregularities there.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy sought to extend voting hours after problems were reported at Hartford polling stations.
In North Carolina, where Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is in a tight race to beat Republican challenger Thom Tillis, long lines were reported in Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte.
“There are lines all over the place,” said Kristin Mavromatis with the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. “Not quite as long as the line at the Cheesecake Factory but there are lines.”
All eyes this evening will be on seats currently held by Democrats that Republicans need to capture to flip the Senate, including in Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado and Alaska.
There could be many tension-packed hours before the fate of the Senate is decided. In Alaska, for example, where Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is in a tight race, polls will not close until 1 a.m. on the East Coast.
Runoff elections, meanwhile, will be needed in Georgia and Louisiana if no candidate gets to the 50% threshold. That means that if things remain tight, the fate of the Senate could be in limbo for weeks.
Final polls in the decisive states showed Republican Joni Ernst in a dead heat in Iowa with Democrat Bruce Braley — although one Des Moines Register survey over the weekend electrified Republicans by putting her up seven points.
Ernst wrapped up her final 24-hour campaign swing Tuesday morning in her hometown of Red Oak. Her campaign spokeswoman said the Iraq war veteran was “anxious” but confident.
In Colorado, which like Iowa, Obama won twice, Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall is behind after apparently failing to define his GOP opponent, Cory Gardner, as an enemy of young women.
In New Hampshire, Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen is in a dead heat with Republican challenger Scott Brown, and Sen. Mark Pryor will lose his Arkansas seat, if the polls prove accurate.
Democrats hope to turn the tables on Republicans in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn mounted a strong campaign for a Senate seat that has been in GOP hands since 2002. Still, she hasn’t cleared the 50% threshold in polls that would be needed to avoid a runoff.
Hagan of North Carolina may also be in position to defy her Republican foe after a nail-biter of a campaign.
Republicans are also sweating the race in Kansas, where a stumbling re-election bid by Sen. Pat Roberts risks being overtaken by independent Greg Orman. Orman hasn’t said which party he would caucus with in Washington and his win could set the GOP back in its bid to win a majority.
But Republicans seized on a comment by Biden in a radio interview that Orman will “be with us,” prompting an Orman spokesman to tell CNN his boss had never even met Biden, and would go to Washington as an Independent.
Senate races in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota meanwhile are considered Republican locks.
Some fascinating gubernatorial races will also be decided, including in Florida, where former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is running as a Democrat against Gov. Rick Scott. In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback is in danger of losing amid a backlash against his hard-core conservatism.
Liberal Massachusetts could elect a Republican governor and Ohio’s John Kasich is expected to be re-elected ahead of a potential presidential bid.
CNN’s Miguel Marquez, Nick Valencia, Paul Vercammen, Mary Kay Mallonnee and Ashley Killough contributed to this story.