Bush, Clinton try to get out the vote
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With only hours to go before Tuesday's critical midterm elections, top Democrats and Republicans are racing across the country hoping to cast a wide net to pull in voters in dozens of tight political races.
The final countdown to the campaign will bring a blitz on Monday, with President Bush planing to visit Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas, while former President Clinton will make a trip to Connecticut.
Bush began the day Sunday in Florida and flew to Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa. Clinton was in Florida and his home state of Arkansas.
"Turn out to vote ... do whatever it takes," Bush told the crowd at a Republican rally in Illinois. "Get on the phones, grab your neighbor, do whatever it takes to get people to the polls."
Both parties believe that by now many voters have made up their minds -- and that turnout is the key to winning.
At stake in Tuesday's elections are numerous governorships and the balance of power in the Senate and House.
Democrats had a one-seat edge in the Senate. With the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, in an October 25 plane crash, the two parties now have 49 seats each, with one independent.
The party that wins control of the Senate will play a major role in determining the future of Bush's congressional agenda.
A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows extremely close senatorial races in Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas and Colorado.
Perhaps the most highly watched contest is in Minnesota, where Republican Norm Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul, is facing Democrat Walter Mondale, the former vice president, who was chosen by the Democratic Party last week to replace Wellstone on the ballot.
"The future of Minnesota rests with Norm Coleman," Bush said at a campaign rally. "I want someone in this great state with whom I could work -- somebody with whom we can work to help all the people."
Bush said that with a Republican Senate he could make permanent last year's tax cuts, gain approval for his judicial nominees and create a Cabinet-level homeland security department.
Mondale represented Minnesota in the Senate from 1964 to 1976 before becoming Jimmy Carter's vice president and making his own failed presidential bid in 1984.
Coleman argues that Mondale's election would represent a step backward in a race that "is about Minnesota's future."
"I think the people will respond well to my vision and to my hard work," he told "Fox News Sunday."
Mondale has tried to parry that tactic by promising to follow in Wellstone's footsteps. "I'm here to ask for your help to build a future that Paul Wellstone would like to have seen, that he would have worked for," Mondale told supporters Saturday.
Mondale, who will hold his only debate with Coleman Monday at 11 a.m. ET, campaigned throughout the state Sunday.
"We have a lot of problems confronting our nation: the possibility of war, the growing threat in Korea, a serious threat of terrorism clearly around," Mondale said.
"We've got a stumbling economy, we are not supporting our schools. We need Medicare, coverage of pharmaceuticals, we've got a system of regulation of corporations that allows the cheaters to continue to cheat. That has got to stop." (Full story)
In South Dakota, the home state of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, the race is so tight that incumbent Democrat Tim Johnson was going door-to-door in some areas in hopes of beating his GOP challenger, Rep. John Thune. Bush stumped for Thune in Sioux Falls Sunday night.
The White House recruited Coleman and Thune to challenge Democratic incumbents and has pulled out all the stops for them.
In addition to those races, incumbent Democrat Jean Carnahan in Missouri faces a strong challenge from former Rep. Jim Talent.
On the Republican side, incumbents Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas and Wayne Allard of Colorado are in tight contests. And an open seat in New Hampshire, now held by Republican Sen. Bob Smith, who was defeated in the primary, is considered a toss-up.
Another highly watched showdown is taking place in Florida, where the president's brother, Jeb Bush, is vying for re-election as governor.
Clinton, who is following his own marathon schedule, and former vice president Al Gore stumped Sunday for Bush's opponent, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride.
Both invoked the 2000 election debacle. "You need to tell everybody you can find between now and Tuesday, 'If you don't go this time because of what happened last time, it's like letting them take your vote away twice,'" Clinton said.
The president made campaign stops Florida on Saturday -- his 12th visit to the state since taking office.(The battle for Florida)
Both sides optimistic
Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot told NBC's "Meet the Press" he was confident the GOP could retake control of the Senate. "But I think it's going to be incredibly close virtually everyplace."
But Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe said polls suggest his party is "knocking off incumbents all over the country."
"If you look at the morning poll data -- not that it really matters what the polls show -- but it shows the Democrats picking up anywhere from two to four seats in the United States Senate," he said. "Our candidates in the House are doing very well."
All 435 seats in the House are on the ballot Tuesday. Republicans hold 223 seats and Democrats 208. There are three vacancies, which were all Democratic seats, and one independent, who generally supports the Democrats.
Democrats need a net gain of seven seats to win control of the House. Democrats would have to capture about two-thirds of the races still in play to do so, and many political analysts believe that is unlikely.
But Gephardt said he remained "very optimistic" about Democrats' chances of winning back control of the House.
Also up for grabs Tuesday are 36 of the nation's 50 governorships. Eleven are held by Democrats, 23 by Republicans and two by independents, in Minnesota and Maine. Almost two dozen seats could change hands.
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 of Arizona was scheduled to join Simon Sunday for a two-day GOP "Fire Gray Davis Tour."