'Take Back The House!'

With a mere 66 days before Election Day and the official start of the fall campaign—Labor Day—already here, voters are largely focused on high-profile Senate races and the run for the White House.

But as CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan reports, control of the House of Representatives could be on the verge of changing for the first time in six years.

It's obviously a top goal for Democrats, the minority in both houses of Congress since the Republican sweep of 1994.

Recently, when Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D.-MO, told the crowd at the Democratic National Convention, "In November, Al Gore will win the White House and we will take back the House," the crowd responded: "Take back the house! Take back the House!"

It's not just a lot of shouting. Marshall Wittman, a Republican political analyst says the House is "really up for grabs. Whether it's going to be Speaker Hastert or Speaker Gephardt is anyone's guess at this moment," referring to Gephardt, the highest ranking Democrat, and current speaker Dennis Hastert.

Democrats only need seven seats to gain the majority, and while Democratic pollster Mark Mellman admits "it's likely to be very, very close" he says "if you had to bet today, you'd bet that Democrats take back control of the House."

And the campaigns could be the costliest ever. In one closely watched race, Democrat Adam Schiff is battling two-term Congressman James Rogan. The two have raised more than $7.5 million, four times the election before.

Money may well be the key. Although Republicans have raised more, Democrats have more left over for the final stretch.

"It looks like it's going to be trench warfare, district by district," said Wittman.

Republican strategists worry that their party is at a disadvantage. The GOP has to battle the image of a do-nothing Congress. They want to pass legislation, and then campaign on it, but the bills are being held up by the Democrats.

"The big question for Congress as they return to town is how soon can they get out of town," said Wittman. "If Republicans are forced to work in Washington long into October, it could spell bad news in the elections."

That could be the Democrats' strategy: Keep Republicans working hard enough and long enough that the GOP gets a vacation they don't want—One that could last until the next election.


  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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