Democrats, GOP rally bases as election nears
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, November 1) -- With Election Day closing in and scores of close races hanging in the balance, political figures across the spectrum are spending the closing hours of the campaign trying to rally the faithful and energize their bases.
President Bill Clinton, whose personal misbehavior has been an issue during the 1998 campaign, spent Sunday speaking at a predominantly black church in Baltimore and giving interviews to black radio stations.
African-Americans have been among the president's most loyal supporters, and black turnout could help Democrats in close races. Clinton challenged them to get their family and friends to the polls on Tuesday.
"There are thousands here. You will see tens of thousands more between now and Tuesday," he said. "Be a doer. Tell them they should show up, too."
Meanwhile, the Christian Coalition, whose leaders have been vocal in their criticism of Clinton, distributed 35 million voters' guides on Sunday at thousands of churches across the United States, trying to encourage turnout among evangelical Protestant voters who are generally part of the Republican base.
Polls point to small Republican gains
At stake Tuesday are all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate and governorships in 36 of the 50 states. A whole host of lower-level state offices are also on the ballot, as well as a number of potentially significant ballot questions.
Pre-election polls and many analysts are pointing to small but not dramatic gains by Republicans in the House, Senate and governorship races. But many races remain tight, and turnout -- historically low in non-presidential elections -- could have a large impact on the results.
"This is going to be a long, sweaty night for both parties," predicted Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster. "There's a chance that big things could be decided on the basis of very small victories."
AP survey: GOP House gain from single digits to 20 seats
A pre-election race-by-race survey by the Associated Press indicated that GOP gains in the House would range from single digits to perhaps 20 seats, depending on the outcome of a slew of close races across the country.
In the Senate, Republican dreams of a net gain of five seats, which would have brought the GOP's strength to 60, appear to have faded, but the final margin of gain for Republicans will hinge on about nine close races.
Overall, the AP survey indicated that most incumbents of both parties at all levels can expect to coast to re-election in an era of economic prosperity. That bodes well for Republicans, who already hold majorities in both houses of Congress and 32 of the 50 governorships.
Clinton's problems are election wild card
Hovering over this year's election are Clinton's personal and political problems, including an ongoing impeachment inquiry. Will all this motivate angry Republicans? Rally loyal Democrats? Or just turn off voters? Analysts are split on the answers.
In the campaign's waning days, House Republicans launched an 11th-hour, $10 million series of television commercials, some of which touch on Clinton's personal behavior and truthfulness, though not directly mentioning the Monica Lewinsky matter.
"All we've been doing is asking the people in this country 'Do you trust this guy enough to turn the Congress back over to him?'" said Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition."
But Democratic National Committee Chairman Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, also interviewed on "Late Edition," accused Republicans of trying to change the subject.
"I know why they went after the president. After you've killed the tobacco act, after you've killed an attempt to pass an HMO (reform bill), after you've killed the attempt to put 5,000 new school buildings in America, what else can you do?" Romer said.
Eight sitting senators in tight races
Headed into Tuesday, at least six Democratic senators are in uncomfortably hot contests -- Harry Reid of Nevada, Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, Ernest "Fritz" Hollings of South Carolina, Barbara Boxer of California, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, and Patty Murray of Washington state.
Among GOP senators, two appeared in danger of possibly losing their seats: Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina and Alfonse D'Amato of New York. And an open seat in Kentucky, now held by a Democrat, is a virtual tossup between Rep. Jim Bunning and Rep. Scotty Baesler.
Feingold's race against Rep. Mark Newmann in Wisconsin has drawn attention because the senator pledged to abide by campaign finance limits contained in a reform bill he sponsored but which did not pass. Newmann took no such pledge, and, outspending Feingold, has charged into a statistical dead heat.
Feingold, however, expresses no regrets.
"I want to win. We're going to win. But it is absolutely exhilarating to stand up to this system of legalized bribery in Washington," he said.
In the New York race between D'Amato and Democratic Rep. Charles Schumer, also too close to call, the candidates have spent more than $35 million, making it the most expensive Senate contest this year -- and also one of the most heated.
Sunday, Schumer campaigned in New York City with Vice President Al Gore. D'Amato held a rally in Albany with popular GOP Gov. George Pataki, who is expected to cruise to victory Tuesday in his re-election bid.
Democrat ahead for big prize -- California governor
Republicans appear to be ready to add to their dominance of governorships in the largest U.S. states. They are in the hunt to retain the statehouse seat they hold in Massachusetts and possibly pick up seats in Florida and Georgia, adding to expected easy wins in Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
But Democrats appear poised to capture the biggest single prize of election night -- the California governorship, where polls show Democratic Lt. Gov. Gray Davis leading GOP Attorney General Dan Lungren. America's most populated state hasn't had a Democratic governor in the past 16 years.
Perhaps the most peculiar governor's race is in Minnesota, where polls show that a former professional wrestler, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, running on the Reform Party ticket, may be drawing as much as 27 percent of the vote, upsetting the traditional two-party matchup between Democratic Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III and Republican St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman.
In the House, relatively few incumbents appear to be in jeopardy, which means that most potential gains by either party lie in the 34 open seats where no incumbent is on the ballot.
Only about half of those seats are truly competitive, including two races each in Wisconsin and Kentucky.
Correspondents Bill Delaney and Paul Caron contributed to this report.
Sunday, November 1, 1998
Final push begins toward 'long, sweaty' election night
Democrats, GOP rally bases as election nears