, WASHINGTON, Nov 2 – President Barack Obama warned that key US elections Tuesday "will have an impact for decades to come," as his Democratic allies braced for a rout fueled by deep voter anger at the sour economy.
His message came as opinion polls showed fired-up Republicans likely to retake the House of Representatives and slice deep into the Democratic Senate majority, though experts predicted the upper chamber would not change hands.
Meanwhile the White House deployed popular First Lady Michelle Obama to Nevada where Senate Majority leader Harry Reid faces a neck-and-neck battle for his seat in the state with the worst US jobless and home foreclosure rates.
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"Can we do this? Yes, we can. Yes, we must," the First Lady shouted, reviving the campaign slogan that buoyed her husband into the White House two years ago.
In an 11th-hour plea to voters in the key battleground of Pennsylvania, Barack Obama warned Republicans would bring back the very policies he blamed for the 2008 economic meltdown that has left nearly one in 10 Americans still out of work.
"The bottom line is this: We\’re making progress, we\’re moving in the right direction," the president said on WDAS-FM radio. "If you haven\’t voted, take that time to vote. It will have an impact for decades to come."
The president, fearing a ballot-box repudiation just two years into his campaign for change, also planned to telephone Democratic volunteers tasked with getting party faithful to the polls, aides said.
The president was notably targeting voters in the critical battlegrounds of Florida, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania — all key to his 2012 reelection bid — as well as his birth state of Hawaii, the White House said.
Vice President Joe Biden was also campaigning for embattled Democrats, whose fortunes rested on the power of their get-out-the-vote machine to counter Republican energy. Related article Michelle Obama stumps up for key Democrat
"If the other side is more enthusiastic, we could end up having problems moving this country forward," warned the president, who boasted that Democratic policies had "rescued the economy" from a second Great Depression.
But Obama\’s soaring White House win of 2008 seemed an age away as voters went to pick 37 of 100 Senate slots, 37 of 50 governorships and all 435 House seats in a glum climate heavy with the cares of nearly 10 percent unemployment.
Republicans, electrified by the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, vowed to reverse Obama\’s sweeping health care reforms and promised a budget crunch and tax cuts they said would slash the deficit, ignite growth, and create jobs.
"We just can\’t afford another two years like the past two," Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner, who would all but certainly replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker, said in an op-ed in USA Today on Monday.
Feeding Democratic worries, the respected Gallup polling organization\’s final pre-vote survey of likely voters nationwide found Republicans held the most commanding mid-term lead either party has held in a generation.
Republicans led Democrats by a 55-40 percent margin, the widest such gap since 1974, when Democrats romped to victory amid public outrage at the Watergate scandal that forced disgraced president Richard Nixon from office.
In a sign of Democratic angst, party chairman Tim Kaine told ABC television that Obama would set about making "some adjustments and corrections" over the next few weeks in the face of a reenergized Republican opposition.
Top Republicans, however, have vowed "no compromise" with the White House on key issues and the party\’s leader in the Senate candidly declared last week that their number one goal would be to defeat Obama in 2012.
Obama has charged Republicans would hand power back to predatory health insurance companies and credit card and finance barons by repealing health care and Wall Street reforms that add up to an already full presidential legacy.
Polls and forecasters predicted Republicans will pick up anywhere between 45 and 70 seats in the House, more than the 39 they need to gain a majority, in a reversal of the huge losses they suffered in 2006 and 2008.
Control of the House would allow Republicans to thwart Obama\’s ambitious plans to tackle global warming and overhaul US immigration, and to control committees that could launch damaging probes into the administration.
In close Senate races, Democrats worked desperately to hold back the Republican tide in California, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Obama\’s old senate seat in Illinois.
But voters seem more inclined to punish the party in power, rather than to have suddenly fallen for Republicans, who remain broadly unpopular.
And despite a grim two years fighting economic malaise, Obama remained the most popular, active senior US political leader — though his approval ratings now in the mid-40s have declined from their stratospheric heights.