US Holds Local Elections Today; Congress Control at Stake in Mid-Term Polls Bush Seizes on Saddam Conviction to Push Party Drive
CRAWFORD, Texas, United States (AFP) -- US President George W. Bush wrapped up his campaign blitz Monday with rallies in Florida, Arkansas, and Texas as mid-term US elections shaped by the unpopular conflict in Iraq headed for a hard-fought finish.
Voting was scheduled to begin throughout the country early Tuesday (Tuesday night in Manila).
Bush seized on the death sentence handed down to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Sunday to reinforce the case for the war in Iraq that nearly 60 percent of Americans now say is not worth fighting for.
"Today, we witnessed a landmark event in the history of Iraq: Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi high tribunal," Bush told cheering supporters at a rowdy Republican rally in Nebraska.
"It's a major achievement for this young democracy," he said, urging the crowd to "give our thanks to the men and women of America's armed forces. Without their courage and skill, today's verdict never would have happened."
One day before Tuesday's vote, dozens of congressional races were too close to call and two national public opinion surveys favored Democrats overall, but suggested a late burst of energy among Bush's Republicans.
The Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats out of the total 435 in play on Tuesday to control the House. They hope for a gain of six Senate seats out of the 33 at stake that would give them the edge in the 100-member upper chamber.
A Democratic victory would dramatically reshape the political landscape for Bush's final two years in office and the 2008 election to choose his successor.
While expert forecasts of a Democratic victory in at least one and possibly both chambers have heartened the opposition party, two new national polls showed their once double-digit advantage sharply narrowed in recent weeks.
The Washington Post and ABC television poll showed likely voters favoring Democrats to Republicans by a 51 percent to 45 percent edge, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. In an Oct. 22 survey, the Democrats had led 55-41.
And a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center that specializes in public opinion found a 47-43 lead for Democrats among likely voters, down from 50-39 two weeks ago. The margin of error was three percentage points.
The Washington Post/ABC poll still had bleak news for Bush, with his approval rating at a dismal 40 percent and almost twice as many registered voters saying they would cast their ballot as an anti-Bush gesture rather than a show of support. …