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Could Mike Castle be part of a new Republican middle?

Ultra-conservative 'tea party' candidates have gotten most of the attention this election cycle. But Mike Castle of Delaware is one of several moderate conservatives who could also win this fall.

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'A more moderate Senate'

Those three would join the existing, albeit small, band of moderates already in the Senate: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Brown of Massachusetts. Other Republican senators who qualify at times as moderates are Bob Corker of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

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John McCain might have joined this crowd had he not veered to the right to win his Senate primary. Both he and Senator Graham, in addition to Senators Snowe and Collins, all took part in the “Gang of 14,” a bipartisan group of senators in 2005 who worked together to keep judicial nominations on track.

In a strong year for Republicans, adding moderates from the Northeast and Midwest makes sense, says former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, because those are historically where the moderates have come from.

In the 100-seat Senate, “we’re at decimated levels now, at 41, so if we’re rebuilding, those are the most likely regions,” Mr. Fleischer says.

Come January, “it’s possible that we could have a more moderate Senate, because of some of the new people, but also because of the general political dynamics that would then be in place,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

A repeat of 1994?

The dynamic could look similar to that of the mid-1990s, when the Republicans regained control of Congress halfway through President Clinton’s first term.

“Once the Republicans have some visible responsibility for setting policy or at least helping set policy, they would be forced to be more moderate or more centrist,” Mr. Jillson says.

Another centrist voice that could join the Senate is outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, a former Republican running as an independent. If he wins, he is likely to caucus with the Democrats. But his whole campaign is premised on getting away from partisanship.

“As an independent, I will take the best ideas of Democrats and Republicans to get things done,” he says in his first general election ad, released Tuesday.

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