WASHINGTON (AP) - Democrats captured four of the six Republican Senate seats they needed to take control of the Senate, winning critical contests in Ohio, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Missouri and inching closer Wednesday to erasing the GOP majority.

Seizing on voter discontent with President Bush and the war in Iraq, Democrats mounted challenges for two remaining Republican-held seats in Virginia and Montana _ and were ahead in both. But in Virginia, Democratic challenger James Webb's lead over Republican incumbent George Allen was razor thin and a recount was likely.

Republicans and Democrats both dispatched lawyers to Virginia to tally uncounted absentee ballots Wednesday, as well as a canvass votes counted on Election Day.

Republican incumbent Sen. Jim Talent in Missouri conceded defeat early Wednesday to Democrat Claire McCaskill, the state auditor. "All of our efforts fell a little bit short this time, but they were worth the waiting," Talent told supporters.

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey, son of a popular former governor, soundly defeated incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative and third-ranking member of the Senate GOP leadership. Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown easily beat GOP incumbent Mike DeWine in Ohio, a state where Republican scandals were devastating for the party.

Former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse defeated incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. Chafee is an openly anti-war Republican who consistently voted against President Bush on legislation.


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But Republican Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, defeated Democratic Rep. Harold Ford for the seat held by retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Ford had sought to become the first black southerner elected to the Senate in more than a century.