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Political analysts widely predict major gains for the Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives today.

But few think the Democrats will win the nine extra Senate positions they need to have a filibuster-proof "supermajority" in that branch of Congress.

Still, even if Democratic candidates only win seven or eight new Senate seats, as most analysts expect, the party's ability to pass legislation will be significantly improved.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be "within striking distance" of the 60-vote supermajority "if he can pick up a Republican or two," said Bill Andresen, associate vice president in Penn's Office of Federal Affairs in Washington.

Andresen predicts Democrats will win seven or eight new seats in the Senate and 25 to 30 seats in the House of Representatives.

He expects this election to be a "wave" election in which a single party - the Democrats - sweeps all the close races, he said.

Barbara Sinclair, professor emeritus of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed that the party will have new clout in Congress after this election - even without a supermajority.

"Whether it's exactly the right number to get them to 60 is not really that critical," she said, adding that moderate Republicans are likely to join the Democrats on certain controversial issues, such as economic policies.

Sinclair predicts the Democrats will pick up seven to 10 Senate seats and 22 to 30 seats in the House of Representatives.

The Senate is now split between 49 Democrats and 49 Republicans, although the two Independent senators caucus with Democrats.

Sinclair said she thinks the outcome of the Senate race may allow Democrats in Congress to pass legislation they might have trouble passing otherwise, such as a program in which the government - rather than the private sector -- gives out student loans.

"There were an enormous number of things the Republicans managed to block" because the Democrats couldn't attract enough senators to its caucus, she said.

According to Andresen, the outcome of the presidential election will heavily influence the next Congress no matter how many seats Democrats win today.

Should Obama win, Andresen said, "Democrats in Congress will look to him to take the lead on things like health-care reform, taxes, the economy and the situation in Iraq."

Whether Democrats come out of the election with a supermajority of 60 Senate seats "all depends on turnout," according to Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior scholar at the University of Southern California.

"It's all going to come down to ground game organization, the motivation voters feel, whether or not minorities and young voters come out to vote, how disenchanted Republicans might be," she said.

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