US Democrats face Congressional defeat

November 1, 2010 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, Nov 1 – US President Barack Obama\’s Democrats braced on Monday for an elections rout, as a wave of 11th-hour polls showed Republicans on course for big gains in Congress amid deep voter anger at the sour economy.

Obama, fearing a ballot-box repudiation just two years into his campaign for change, planned a wave of radio interviews and telephone calls to Democratic volunteers key to boosting party turnout on Tuesday, the White House said.

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 US party has held in a generation.

Republicans led Democrats by a 55-40 percent margin, the widest such gap since the 1974 contest, when Democrats romped to victory amid public outrage at the Watergate scandal that forced disgraced president Richard Nixon from office.

The poll lent weight to analyst predictions that Republicans would retake the House of Representatives and slice deep into the Democratic\’ Senate majority, though experts forecast the upper chamber would not change hands.

The election for 37 Senate slots, 37 governorships and all 435 House seats, came as the euphoric hope Obama stirred in the 2008 White House race seemed an age away and with America\’s trademark brash optimism drained by a narrative of national decline.

Republicans, electrified by the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, vowed to reverse Obama\’s sweeping health care reforms and promise a budget crunch and tax cuts they said would reduce the deficit, ignite growth, and reduce nearly ten percent unemployment.

"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.

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 pleaded with voters to recall that Republican George W. Bush was in the driver\’s seat in 2008 when the US economy hurtled into a "ditch," and said his own polices staved off a second Great Depression and have put the United States back on course to prosperity.

He also 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 immigration reform, 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.

The list of endangered Senate Democrats included Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was locked in a too-close-to-call battle with Republican and "Tea Party" favorite Sharron Angle in Nevada, home to the country\’s highest unemployment and home foreclosure rates.

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 political leader in America, even though his approval ratings now in the mid-40s have declined from their stratospheric heights.

Historically, sitting US presidents have seen their party lose seats in elections halfway through their first term, though Bush defied that trend in 2002.

Also on the ballot Tuesday are the governorships of 37 states, including California, Florida, New York and Texas. Republicans seem poised to gain about a half-dozen governor\’s seats and take control of several statehouses.


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