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GOP, Democrats Make Final Push

One day before midterm elections, both parties are focused on turning out voters in the battle for control of Congress.

Republicans and Democrats have sent thousands of volunteers to states with the most contested races to work phone banks and canvass neighborhoods. Both parties also have assembled legal teams for possible challengers in case of voting problems.

Up for grabs are 435 House seats, 33 Senate seats, governorships in 36 states, and thousands of state legislative and local races. In 37 states, voters also will determine the fate of ballot initiatives, including whether to ban gay marriage, raise the minimum wage, endorse expanded embryonic stem cell research and — in South Dakota — impose the country's most stringent abortion restrictions.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., hoping to become the first female House speaker, stumped for Democratic challengers in the Northeast on Sunday.

She was cautiously optimistic about her party's chances in Tuesday's midterm election. "We are thankful for where we are today, to be poised for success," she said in Colchester, Conn. "But we have two Mount Everests we have to climb — they are called Monday and Tuesday."

Her party appears increasingly confident it can ride a wave of public disenchantment with the Bush administration and Congress to victory in the House and, possibly, the Senate.

President Bush was spending Monday urging Republicans in Southern states to get out and vote.

Despite the Republicans' urgency, Mr. Bush is campaigning in areas
that are very, very safe — places where protesters will most likely be absent, reports CBS News correspondent Bill Plante from Crawford, Texas.

"Here's the way I see it," the president told a crowd Sunday in Grand Island, Neb. "If the Democrats are so good about being the party of the opposition, let's just keep them in the opposition." Republicans are hoping their party's acclaimed get-out-the-vote operation can prevent a Democratic rout in a campaign marked by voter fury over the Iraq war.

"It's hard to see a scenario where the Democrats don't pick up the House," Joe Lockhart, former press secretary for President Bill Clinton, told Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm Monday. "I think Democrats are privately worried that their supporters have seen this lead for so long now — weeks and weeks — and the people are going to become complacent."

Republican political consultant Nicole Wallace told Storm that despite the Republicans' problems with political scandals and the Iraq war's growing unpopularity, the GOP is "privately a little excited" that the midterm elections are so tight.

Republicans repeated their assertion that Democrats would raise taxes and prematurely pull out of Iraq if they controlled Congress. Democrats pressed their case for change, arguing that Republicans on Capitol Hill blindly have followed Mr. Bush's "failed policy."

Iraq has dominated the campaign season, and Republicans and Democrats sparred over the war again Sunday following Saddam Hussein's conviction on crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to die by hanging; an appeal is planned.

The number of ballots cast historically is low in nonpresidential year elections, with only about 40 percent of U.S. citizens of voting age population going to the polls.

In other election news:

  • Vice President Dick Cheney will spend Election Day on his first hunting trip since he accidentally shot a companion last February while aiming at a covey of quail on a private Texas ranch. The vice president, after working at the White House on Monday morning, will head to South Dakota to spend several days at a private hunting lodge near Pierre.
  • Virginia Democrat Jim Webb barnstormed rural, mountainous southwestern Virginia on Sunday, and Sen. George Allen, R-Va., mingled with NFL football tailgaters in nearby Maryland. Allen used a football analogy to encourage voters at the Washington Redskins game to turn out to decide the close race. "There's no more perfect place to illustrate the need for a two-minute drill than a Redskins-Cowboys game," Allen said, comparing his campaign's final hours to a football game's closing seconds.
  • The country's only black senator, Democrat Barack Obama of Illinois, asked Tennessee voters at two black churches and at a Nashville rally to elect Ford, a Democrat who is trying to become the first black senator from the South in more than 100 years. "I know that all of you are going to work the next couple of days to make sure it happens, because I'm feeling lonely in Washington," Obama said at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church. "I need my dear friend to join me." Corker, meanwhile, held a Sunday night event in Nashville with Republican U.S. Senators John McCain, Lamar Alexander and John Thune. The Virginia and Tennessee races are among the most watched in the country, along with contests in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Missouri and Michigan.
  • Republican Sen. Jim Talent campaigned across rural Missouri Sunday as his Democratic opponent Claire McCaskill visited predominantly black churches in St. Louis. Polls show the race between Talent and McCaskill remains virtually tied. "A big turnout in the rural areas makes it much easier for me," Talent said after a campaign stop in Cape Girardeau. McCaskill, the state auditor, began Sunday with a national television appearance on "Fox News Sunday" and visited several predominantly black churches in St. Louis. She planned to cap the day with a rally featuring other Democrats, among Obama.
  • In Rhode Island's Senate race, Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse opens his campaign appearances with a joke. "So how's that Bush administration working out for you?" he says sarcastically to groans and boos from supporters, playing on nationwide dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush and with his conduct of the Iraq war. "You know what we need in this country, and you know that the Republicans will not deliver," he continues, delivering the message at the heart of his campaign to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee. Polls show the race is extremely close, with most showing Whitehouse holding a slight lead. However, a McClatchy Newspapers-MSNBC poll released Sunday showed the race about even, with Chafee pulling 46 percent to Whitehouse's 45 percent, with a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
  • In Michigan, competitors for the governor's office worked Sunday to energize voters for the final push. Republican challenger Dick DeVos and Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm were within five miles of each other in some of their early Sunday stops at Detroit-area churches. The main theme: getting their supporters out to vote. A new poll released Sunday by the Detroit Free Press and WDIV-TV in Detroit found Granholm with 54 percent and DeVos with 41 percent of the vote, with 5 percent undecided or supporting another candidate.
  • In New Jersey, Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr. told reporters Sunday he felt energized by voters' response as his Senate campaign comes to a close, while Democratic Senator Robert Menendez hoped to gain support from rallies with former President Bill Clinton.