Down to the wire, party leaders predicting victory for each side
On Sunday talk shows, GOP chief Michael Steele and Democratic Party chairman Tim Kaine gave very different views of how next week's elections will turn out. Trying to buck up Democrats, President Obama has just dashed through five states.
The Republican Party chief on Sunday forecast a wave of anti-Democratic voting on Election Day while his Democratic counterpart said a strong get-out-the-vote effort would hold back losses and help prevent a Republican takeover of Congress.
Nine days before elections that will decide whether President Barack Obama will face a Republican Congress in the last two years of his term, Republican Party chairman Michael Steele said he has seen a groundswell and energy behind the party's candidates in his nationwide travels.
"I think you are going to see a wave, an unprecedented wave on Election Day that is going to surprise a lot of people," Steele said.
Steele said he believes "absolutely" that Republicans will become the majority party in the House and thus oust Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California. He was less certain that Republicans will take over the Senate.
Tim Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chairman, predicted Democrats would retain power in both chambers. He argued that early voting figures from some states and voter turnout at rallies for Democratic candidates were evidence that his party would avoid the disaster some analysts are predicting.
"We've got work to do, but we think we can do it," Kaine said.
Polls point to Republican victories
In a mid-October survey of people likely to vote, an Associated Press-GfK poll found all signs pointing to a huge Republican victory on Nov. 2. In the survey, 50 percent said they would back the Republican candidate in their House district while 43 percent say they planned to back the Democrat. The Republican advantage slightly narrowed in recent weeks as Democrats grew more energized.
Republicans need a 40-seat gain to take over the House. By some estimates at least 75 House seats may change hands, and most of those are held by Democrats. An additional two dozen other races for Democratic-controlled seats have tightened in recent weeks.
In the Senate, Democrats are seen as having a better chance of holding their majority even though 37 seats are up for election. Democrats currently have 57 seats, plus the backing of two independents, but they are expected to lose some seats to Republicans. However, it is unlikely the Republicans will pick up the 10 seats needed for a majority.
Steele said Republicans hope for a better relationship between Obama and a Republican-controlled Congress than they have seen with Democrats in the majority in the House and the Senate. Kaine said some economic issues might draw bipartisan support once the election is behind the two parties.
Steele and Kaine spoke on Sunday morning television news programs.
Obama, meanwhile, was catching his breath in the White House after a frenzied four-day campaign dash through five states – a hard-hitting series of appearances that Democrats hope will hold back the predicted Republican wave.
The president's message varied little as he moved across the United States, telling those who flocked to rallies and fundraising events that voters faced a choice between Republican economic policies "that got us into this mess" or the Democrats still unfinished struggle to lift the nation out of the deepest fiscal malaise in decades.
Obama trying to bridge enthusiasm gap
While Obama is not on the ballot this year – a fact that is compounding the so-called enthusiasm gap that is expected to keep many Democrats from going to the polls – the president has revived his campaign persona as a dynamic and inspiring political advocate for his party's candidates. He's also trying to prevent a Republican election wave that would sweep away strong Democratic majorities in Congress and likely doom much of what remains on his legislative agenda in the last two years of his term.
"All they've got is the same old stuff that they were peddling over the last decade," he said of Republicans. "I just don't want to relive the past."
He said: "The other side is betting on amnesia. It is up to you to show them that you have not forgotten."
Obama made his comments at a Minneapolis rally Saturday for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton. The former US senator is facing a challenge from Republican Tom Emmer and independent Tom Horner.
It was a grueling four days of campaigning and fundraising for Obama, who since Wednesday has touched down in Oregon, Washington State, California, and Nevada before winding up in Minnesota. He has been helping congressional allies, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who find themselves in tight races because of voter fears and anger about the economy and unemployment that remains stuck at nearly 10 percent.
Republicans have made Reid their top target in the Nov. 2 election, and unseating the most powerful Senate Democrat would be a major blow to Obama.
Reid is tied in the polls with relative unknown Republican Sharron Angle in a race that has attracted millions of dollars from across the nation. Angle and her ultraconservative views have become a beacon for tea party supporters who advocate smaller government and lower taxes.