Now, The Voters Have Their Say

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., left, campaigns, Monday, Nov. 6, 2006, as DeDe Miller,center, sister of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, walks in front of him with a sign listing the number of military killed in Iraq, as Allen campaigned at the Vienna Metro Stop in Vienna, Va. At right of Miller is Sen. Allen's wife Susan Allen.(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Election Day is here - one of the most anticipated in years - with politicians and citizens of all ideological stripes wondering if it will be, as some have predicted, one for the history books.

As candidates and party leaders got in their last minute pitches Monday for the midterm elections, Democrats criticized Republicans as stewards of a stale status quo and President Bush campaigned into the evening in a drive to preserve GOP control in Congress.

"They can't run anything right," said former President Clinton, taunting Republicans about the war in Iraq, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and even the scandal involving the House page program that complicated GOP efforts to win two more years in power.

President Bush campaigned on Monday from Florida to Arkansas and Texas. But the day brought one more reminder of his poor standing in the polls when Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist skipped the presidential rally in Pensacola, Fla., to make a speech of his own hundreds of miles away.

Mr. Bush made no mention of the evident snub in public, but not so his aides. "Let's see how many people show up in Palm Beach on 24 hours notice, versus 8,000 or 9,000 people" expected for the president's speech, said Karl Rove, the White House's top political strategist.

A CBS News analysis shows 52 competitive House races, nearly all of them involving Republican seats. Democrats need to pick up 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate to take control of Congress.

"The question now is whether it's going to be a good or a great night for the Democrats," said CBS News political consultant Stu Rothenberg.

But polls out this weekend and Monday show Republicans nationwide are closing the gap, reports CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. The new USA Today-Gallup poll reflects that trend.

Democrats come out on top, but the margin has shrunk in that poll from 13 points several weeks ago to just seven now — 51 percent to 44 percent.

But Republicans are still behind, reports Schieffer. They are running with a President whose own approval ratings remain low and all polls show Americans still believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Democrats steadfastly refused to say so in public, but some Republicans signaled privately they expected to lose more than 15 seats, and control of the House with them.

Among GOP-held open seats, those in Arizona, Colorado, New York, Ohio and Iowa seemed likeliest to fall. Republican Reps. John Hostettler, Chris Chocola and Mike Sodrel of Indiana; Charles Taylor of North Carolina; Curt Weldon, Don Sherwood and Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania; and Charles Bass of New Hampshire were in particularly difficult re-election struggles.

Democrats also boasted of several election targets in New York, where Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Eliot Spitzer, the Democratic candidate for governor, were expected to win landslides at the top of the ticket.

Easily two dozen more Republican seats were in jeopardy, including one in Texas that may not be settled until next month. There, Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla and former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat, were the leading contenders in an eight-candidate field. A run-off between the two top vote-getters would follow if no one won a majority on Tuesday.

In contrast, only a few Democratic incumbents appeared in jeopardy, including Reps. John Barrow in Georgia; Melissa Bean in Illinois and, in a race that bore no impact on the broader party struggle, William Jefferson in Louisiana. Jefferson, ensnared in a federal corruption investigation, faced a likely runoff on Dec. 9, possibly against fellow Democrat Karen Carter.

Among the key Senate races to watch:

  • In Rhode Island, Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who had been written off by some observers, has narrowed the gap with Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse to 3 points in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll.
  • In the battle for Maryland's open Senate seat, Democrat Ben Cardin, who had held a comfortable lead over Republican Michael Steele, now leads by just 3 points in the latest Mason Dixon poll, while a SurveyUSA poll shows the race even.
  • In Montana, where Republican Sen. Conrad Burns had been struggling, polls are inconclusive, either showing Burns and Democrat Jim Tester tied (Mason-Dixon), or Tester with a 9-point lead (USA Today/Gallup).
  • In Tennessee, Republican Bob Corker may be pulling away from Democratic Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., in the race to replace retiring GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Corker leads by 12 points in the latest poll from the Chattanooga Times Free Press & Memphis Commercial Appeal.