Bush, Clinton in campaign blitz
SAVANNAH, Georgia (CNN) -- Three days before a pivotal election, with control of Congress and his brother's political future at stake, President Bush began a marathon campaign swing Saturday to rally the GOP faithful in 10 states with razor-close races.
"When you go to your coffee shops or your houses of worship over the next couple of days, or your community centers, tell your neighbors it's not only important to vote, but tell them to support these good candidates up here on the stage," Bush said at a rally with Republican candidates in Savannah, Georgia.
"And don't be afraid to talk to Democrats," he said. "There are a lot of good Democrats who understand that this president needs good support in Washington, D.C."
Meanwhile, in Minnesota's tight Senate race, the camps of Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Walter Mondale, who entered the race after Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash last week, agreed to a last-minute debate Monday.
The one-hour debate will be held at 10 a.m. (11 a.m. ET) at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul and will be sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio and simulcast on KARE-TV. The Independent and Green party candidates will not participate.
Bush began his campaign swing Saturday morning in Blountsville, Tennessee, stumping for GOP candidates for governor and the Senate, before moving on to two stops in Georgia, where polls show the Republican Senate candidate, Rep. Saxby Chambliss, closing the gap with Democratic Sen. Max Cleland.
The Georgia race is one of a handful of tight races that will determine which party controls the Senate.
"In this race, if you're interested in sending an ally to the president, that ally is Saxby Chambliss," Bush told supporters in Marietta, an Atlanta suburb.
The president will wrap up Saturday's campaigning in Tampa, Florida, where his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, is locked in a tight race with Democrat Bill McBride. This will be his 12th visit to the Sunshine State since taking office and his second in the last two weeks. (The battle for Florida)
Clinton back on the campaign trail
Underscoring the importance both parties place on the Florida governor's race, after the state's controversial vote count two years ago, former President Bill Clinton campaigned with McBride across the state Saturday, culminating in an evening rally in Miami Beach.
"Tuesday is a big day," Clinton said. "You've got a clear choice and a great man who's going to be a great governor. "
The former president also told the Democratic faithful to urge people who might have been discouraged by the election problems in 2000 to return to the polls.
"You tell them if they don't go this time, it's like giving up their vote twice. If they took it from you once, don't give it to them twice. Stand up and be heard," he said.
On Sunday and Monday, Clinton's vice president, Al Gore, will also campaign for McBride in Florida.
Bush will also campaign Sunday in Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa. On Monday, he'll travel to Missouri and Arkansas before arriving in his home state of Texas, where he will vote Tuesday.
Highlighting Tuesday's election will be the battle for control of the Senate, which, with the death of Wellstone, has 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one independent.
Both parties expect to win Congress
In interviews airing Saturday on CNN's "Novak, Hunt and Shields," the heads of both the Republican and Democratic Senate campaign committees predicted they will win enough of the tossup seats to gain control.
"I ... really believe that we are going to keep the majority and possibly increase our numbers," said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "If the Republicans get control back of the United States Senate, we will no longer have a check and balance on the White House, on the Republican Congress."
"We are within striking distance of having the party of the president, Republicans, being able to retake the Senate," said Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "I will predict that we will have one net seat up, which will put us back in the majority."
In Minnesota, Mondale spent Saturday campaigning in the northern part of the state, while Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul, was stumping in southern Minnesota. While polls taken right after Mondale entered the race showed him with a slight lead, Republicans are hoping that a backlash over a memorial service for Wellstone, which took on a political tone many found unseemly, will give Coleman traction.
"We're going to win Minnesota," Frist said, citing the "extreme partisanship" at the service that he believes has energized GOP voters.
But Murray forecast a Mondale victory, saying the former vice president "has a tremendous amount of respect in the state, and I think he has really set the tone correctly and wisely in taking on this mantle and stepping forward as a statesman."
In addition to the close races in Georgia and Minnesota, incumbent Senate Democrats Tim Johnson in South Dakota and Jean Carnahan in Missouri are also facing strong challenges. On the Republican side, incumbents Tim Hutchinson in Arkansas and Wayne Allard in Colorado are in tight contests. An open seat in New Hampshire, now held by Republican Sen. Bob Smith, who was defeated in the primary, is also considered a tossup.
The White House, which recruited Rep. John Thune to run against Johnson in South Dakota, has been pulling out the stops for the GOP candidate. Vice President Dick Cheney stopped in Friday, and both the president and first lady Laura Bush will be there Sunday.
In addition to the Senate races, all 435 seats in the House will be up for re-election Tuesday. Currently, Republicans hold 223 seats, Democrats 208, with one independent who generally supports the Democrats and three vacancies, which were all Democratic seats.
While Democrats only need a net gain of seven seats to gain control of the House, most political analysts believe that is unlikely because Democrats would have to capture about two-thirds of the races still in play.
Also on Tuesday, 36 of the nation's 50 governorships will be up for grabs. Eleven are held by Democrats, 23 by Republicans and two by independents, in Minnesota and Maine. Almost two dozen seats could change hands.
In addition to the close Bush-McBride contest in Florida, Democrat Shannon O'Brien and Republican Mitt Romney, who ran the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, are neck-and-neck in Massachusetts.
In the largest prize, California, polls show Democratic Gov. Gray Davis leading over his Republican challenger, Bill Simon, but neither man appears to be very popular with voters. Republican Sen. John McCain will join Simon Sunday on the GOP's two-day "Fire Gray Davis Tour."