November 5, 2002 Posted: 2:07 AM EST (0707 GMT)
Republican and Democratic leaders spent Monday canvassing the country, campaigning for candidates in close races.
On the tail end of his five-day campaign blitz, President George W. Bush spent Monday afternoon in St. Louis stumping for Republican Jim Talent. "For the good of Missouri and for the good of America, Jim Talent is the man for Senate," he said.
Former Vice President Al Gore spent Monday in Florida, campaigning for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride. McBride is battling incumbent Republican Jeb Bush for the Florida governorship. Former President Bill Clinton was in Connecticut on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial challenger Bill Curry, who is running against GOP Gov. John Rowland.
The last minute barnstorming by party leaders indicates the high stakes in this midterm election. Republicans are hoping to gain control of the Senate and stay in control of the House. If that happens, Republicans would have control of the White House and Congress. And that could affect whether President Bush can push through judiciary nominations -- including potential Supreme Court nominations -- and pursue his tax-cut plan while leading the War on Terrorism.
In the Senate, Democrats had a one-seat advantage over Republicans before the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone. Now each of those parties holds 49 seats. 34 seats are in contest this midterm election. 27 of those are currently held by incumbents trying to be reelected, and seven are open seats.
In the House, Republicans have a majority of 223-208 with an independent holding one seat and three vacant seats formerly held by Democrats. Since Representatives only serve two-year terms, all 435 seats are being contested. 391 are held by incumbents up for reelection and 50 are open.
Midterm elections are national elections that occur in the middle of a president's four-year term. Typically, midterm election results don't favor the party in the White House. If Republicans gain seats in the House of Representatives, it would be the first time the president's party gained in the first off-year election of a president's term since 1932, according to a senior administration official.
"The average House loss in the mid-term for the president's party is 30 seats, and the president's party on average has lost Senate seats in the last two-thirds of 22 elections," said Mary Matalin, White House adviser. But the president's advisors predicted Bush would buck the trend in this year's midterm elections.