Unexpected delays caused by glitches and high turnout, including a recount in Yellowstone County, left the fate of the U.S. Senate Race in doubt early Wednesday morning.

Democrat Jon Tester was leading GOP U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns in preliminary results, predicting to supporters that he would win a race watched by a nation waiting to see who would control the U.S. Senate.

With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Tester had 142,082 votes, or 50 percent, and Burns had 136,403 votes, or 48 percent. Libertarian Stan Jones had 7,225 votes, or 2 percent.

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Tester went to sleep not knowing if he would win. His spokesman, Matt McKenna, said the race would be resolved Wednesday.

"We are winning this race and we will win this race but it will be (Wednesday)" McKenna said early Wednesday.

The Burns campaign said they believe big turnout in Republican precincts would help them as the late votes were counted. Supporters cheered as late results showed Burns cutting into Tester's lead.

Control of the U.S. Senate hung in the balance early Wednesday morning — with both Virginia and Montana yet to be called. Democrats needed to win both races to hold a majority.

Tester predicted a win as late results rolled in.

"I can guarantee you this, it's going to be worth the wait," he told supporters late in the night.

A number of counties stayed open late to deal with long lines of voters seeking to register and vote on the same day. Gallatin County was still registering voters four hours after the polls closed at 8 p.m.

McKenna said the Tester campaign has lawyers on the ground but "as of now we are not seeing any irregularities that lead us to believe there is any voter fraud."

He said the campaign is confident Tester is winning in Yellowstone, a key conservative-leaning county, and officials there have told him that the vote count will not significantly change from numbers posted earlier in the evening.

"This is not Florida," he said. "These are just ballots that are slow to be counted."

Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, in Great Falls with Tester, predicted a win for the Big Sandy farmer because "all the things we've done in the last few years have given Democrats a better brand name."

Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, also waiting with Tester for returns, said "this is a year of change, Montanans want change."

Burns called in last-minute visits from GOP big guns including the president and vice president, hoping to give him the boost he needs against Tester.

Burns, 71, who was first elected in a 1988 upset as the folksy, backslapping Washington outsider, now finds himself as one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents. His ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his own verbal gaffes — including an incident this summer when he cursed at firefighters at the airport in Billings — have left him with some of his lowest approval ratings of any election.

His race against Tester has been one of the most closely watched this year, with Democrats hoping Burns' own troubles, coupled with President Bush's low approval ratings, would translate into Democratic gains in Congress.

Most polls in the final weeks of the campaign indicate the race too close to call. But Burns continues to garner less than 50 perc brought in few national Democratic party figures, instead relying on a flurry of joint rallies with Schweitzer and Baucus.

Tester, 50, surprised many in the state when he beat a better financed and better known Democrat in the party's June primary. Ever since, Democratic supporters have been motivated, packing auditoriums at seven debates with a sea of yellow "Fire Burns!" T-shirts.

This time around, it's Tester who is portraying himself as the Washington outsider — a Western moderate Democrat who owns guns, opposes gay marriage and has a libertarian's suspicion of the Patriot Act.

Burns, meanwhile, has focused his campaign on his ability as a veteran senator to bring federal dollars to important projects in the state, and has portrayed Tester as a liberal who wants to raise taxes and wants to "cut and run" from the war in Iraq.

The "liberal" tag didn't seem to stick with many, as Tester sports scuffed cowboy boots, the now-famous flattop haircut, and a big belly to go along with a hand missing three fingers to an old accident with a meat grinder.

The campaign started out as negative, with Democrats putting up an advertisement last year about Burns and his connections to Abramoff. Burns didn't respond convincingly for months — and polls show voters still think Abramoff is a noteworthy issue.

In the last two weeks of the campaign, Burns was joined on the trail by a number of GOP luminaries — most notably President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney — hoping their appearances in Montana would help sway the still undecided voters.

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