Mon, Nov 06, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Democrats poised to regain House


Long locked out of power, Democrats appear poised to win control of the House and possibly the Senate in congressional elections tomorrow amid a national clamor for change after four years of war in Iraq.

Democrats also are on track to replace Republican governors in several states, New York, Ohio and Massachusetts among them. Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger seems safely on his way to a first full term in California, the most populous state.

Six years after Republican President George W. Bush took office, his poll ratings are no better than 40 percent.

The Republicans have a majority in Congress, but Democrats are just 15 seats short in the House and six short in the Senate. A Democratic Congress would likely slow down Bush's agenda.

All 435 House seats will be on the ballot tomorrow, as well as 33 of the 100 Senate seat and 36 gubernatorial races.

Voters in 37 states will determine the fate of ballot initiatives, deciding whether to raise the minimum wage, ban gay marriage, endorse expanded embryonic stem cell research and -- in South Dakota -- impose the country's most stringent abortion restrictions.

State legislative and local races by the thousands filled out the ballots in nearly every county.

The elections counted as the costliest ever, with spending expected to reach US$2.6 billion, much of it paying for caustic TV commercials.

Candidates everywhere worked through a final weekend of campaigning, sometimes with little or no rest.

Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senatorial candidate in Missouri, was on a 30-stop tour over 24 uninterrupted hours.

"It's the last person you expect to see at Waffle House at 3am," said Tim Yazawa, 24, who was grabbing a middle-of-the night bite to eat when her entourage rolled in.

Republicans are counting on their get-out-the-vote operation and a late save-the-majority tour by Bush to limit their losses.

"The last thing American families and small businesses need now is a higher tax bill," Bush said on Saturday in a weekly radio address broadcast live from Englewood, Colorado.

"And that is what you'll get if the Democrats take control of the Congress," he added.

But Democrats sought to capitalize on weariness about the war, which has cost more than 2,800 US troops their lives.

A dozen years after Republicans gained power of Congress in a landslide, strategists in both parties as well as public and private polls say Democrats are on the cusp of taking it back.

Democrats must gain 15 seats to make Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California the first woman speaker in history, and national surveys showed Democrats running ahead of Republicans in hypothetical ballot tests on a scope not seen since 1990.

In an Associated Press-AOL News poll late last month, 56 percent of likely voters sided with Democrats and 37 percent with Republicans. The 19 percentage-point gap was nearly double the 10-point spread in a survey a few weeks earlier.

At the same time, the poll suggested that not everyone's mind was fully made up. About 38 percent of likely voters said they either had not made a final decision or could change their intentions before casting their ballots.

Still, among Republicans and Democrats alike, there was open speculation about the size of the majority the Democrats would command.

"A miracle day for us would be 14 seats lost," said Joe Gaylord, who was the chief strategist for Newt Gingrich in 1994 when Republicans swept to power.

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