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Senate, governor's races too close to call

By KATHY A. GAMBRELL, White House reporter   |   Nov. 3, 2002 at 4:42 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- A majority of the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races are too close to call as Election Day approaches with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and former President Bill Clinton campaigning in key states to shore up support for their respective parties.

Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry Mcauliffe on Sunday agreed that many of the races for senate seats and governors' mansions are far to close to call, but both party leaders were cautiously optimistic that their candidates would prevail.

Racicot told NBC's "Meet the Press" that "I do believe there will be a majority of Republican governors. But, again, these are incredibly close races."

With Election Day 48 hours away, political analysts said voters appeared less interested in the campaigns as their attention was diverted in recent weeks by the Washington, D.C. snipers and talk of a potential war in Iraq. Democrats have failed to pull voter attention back towards the U.S. economy and Republicans have not been able to engender much debate over what they call an obstructionist Democratically controlled U.S. Senate. A New York Times/CBS News poll on Sunday found that voters were less enthusiastic about voting this time than they have been in past Congressional campaigns.

The poll conducted Sunday through Thursday with 1,018 adults, of which 795 said they were registered to vote, showed nearly half said they were less enthusiastic about voting this time than they have been in past Congressional campaigns.

For both parties, the election is viewed as crucial. The Republicans hold a 6-vote majority in the House, which the Democrats hoped to dislodge and the Democrats, prior to Senator Paul Wellstone's death in Minnesota, held a one-vote majority in the Senate. The Republicans hoped to retake the Senate and maintain control of the House, giving one party total control of the country for the next two years.

In recent days, Democrats have indicated that the chances of taking control of the House are turning out to be extraordinarily difficult.

Bush headed out Saturday from Washington to begin a 15-state campaign swing to lend support for GOP candidates in tight Senate and gubernatorial races. On Saturday he arrived Florida to boost support for his brother Gov. Jeb Bush who is running in a bitter re-election battle against Democratic challenger lawyer Bill McBride.

The president was expected on Sunday to sweep into the Midwest to campaign for Norm Coleman who is up against former Vice President Walter Mondale. Mondale entered the race earlier this week replacing Wellstone who along with his wife and daughter was killed in a plane crash over a week ago.

Democratic critics lambaste Bush for his aggressive fund-raising that has netted GOP coffers some $144 million during 90 campaign events. Mcauliffe said Bush has ignored domestic issues such as the ailing U.S. economy, prescription drugs benefits and Social Security.

"I think the president made a strategic error. I think this president, who has enjoyed the highest approval ratings of any president sustained in the history of our country -- first of all, he should be doing a lot better in these elections. He should be winning a lot of Senate seats, he should be winning a lot more House seats, and he should not be in trouble in all these governors races across the country," said Mcauliffe.

Political analysts said the outcome of key races would depend in large part on voter turnout, so both key Democrats and Republicans took to the campaign trail on Saturday in massive pushes in the key states.

President Bill Clinton turned up in Florida to give support to McBride. Cheney pushed into Salt Lake City for a Utah Victory 2002 event, and then headed to Springfield, Mo. First lady Laura Bush, who seldom campaigns, stumped for candidates in Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire and then in South Dakota where she was to join the president on Sunday.

The most watched races are those in the U.S. Senate where Democrats currently hold a one-vote majority. Tuesday's balloting will determine whether they hold on to that lead or lose to Republicans. The GOP lost control of the Senate when Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords switched parties from Republican to Independent, opting to vote with Democrats. The death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone has leveled the partisan Senate field 49 to 49, without Jeffords.

Among those closely watched races is Republican Elizabeth Dole's effort in North Carolina to overcome Democrat Erskine Bowles, former Clinton chief of staff, for the seat to be vacated by Sen. Jesse Helms. Dole had a small lead over Bowles, but the race has grown increasingly tight in the past few weeks. In New Jersey, Democrat Frank Lautenberg stepped in to run against Douglas Forrester after Sen. Robert Torricelli dropped out as his poll numbers dramatically fell. The Lautenberg- Forrester race is also regarded as tight.

Sen. Jean Carnahan, a Democrat, is locked in a tight race in Missouri against Republican Jim Talent, and in Georgia, GOP Rep. Saxby Chamblis is seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen. Max Cleland. In the gubernatorial field, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is in a close race against Republican challenger Bob Erlich.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said on CNN'S "Novak, Hunt and Shields" that Democrats have been talking about what voters want to hear on the economy and other social issues.

"The Democratic Party is talking about what we need to do about that in terms of protecting pensions, in terms of investing in education and job retraining, in terms of making sure that we extend unemployment insurance," Murray said. "These are important things that every one of our candidates is really focusing on, and I think that we will see the results of that in Tuesday's election."

Sen. Bill Frist, of Tennessee, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" was critical of Democrat's economic stance. He charged that the Democrats have obstructed progress with making the president's $1.35 trillion tax cut permanent and an energy plan to keep gasoline prices in check. Rasciot called the Democrats "as paralyzed in their campaigns as they are in serving the people of this country."

"They can't even pass a budget in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is required by law. They can't decide what they want, and they will not help this president address those issues in constructive terms" Rasciot said. "That's why they have blocked all of the efforts to do the things that government can do to address the economy."

A majority of the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races are too close to call as Election Day approaches with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and former President Bill Clinton campaigning in key states to shore up support for their respective parties.

Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry Mcauliffe on Sunday agreed that many of the races for senate seats and governors' mansions are far to close to call, but both party leaders were cautiously optimistic that their candidates would prevail.

Racicot told NBC's "Meet the Press" that "I do believe there will be a majority of Republican governors. But, again, these are incredibly close races."

With Election Day 48 hours away, political analysts said voters appeared less interested in the campaigns as their attention was diverted in recent weeks by the Washington, D.C. snipers and talk of a potential war in Iraq. Democrats have failed to pull voter attention back towards the U.S. economy and Republicans have not been able to engender much debate over they what they call an obstructionist Democratically controlled U.S. Senate. A New York Times/CBS News poll on Sunday found that voters were less enthusiastic about voting this time than they have been in past Congressional campaigns.

The poll conducted Sunday through Thursday with 1,018 adults, of which 795 said they were registered to vote, showed nearly half said they were less enthusiastic about voting this time than they have been in past Congressional campaigns.

For both parties, the election is viewed as crucial. The Republicans hold a 6-vote majority in the House, which the Democrats hoped to dislodge and the Democrats, prior to Senator Paul Wellstone's death in Minnesota, held a one-vote majority in the Senate. The Republicans hoped to retake the Senate and maintain control of the House, giving one party total control of the country for the next two years.

In recent days, Democrats have indicated that the chances of taking control of the House are turning out to be extraordinarily difficult.

Bush headed out Saturday from Washington to begin a 15-state campaign swing to lend support for GOP candidates in tight Senate and gubernatorial races. On Saturday he arrived Florida to boost support for his brother Gov. Jeb Bush who is running in a bitter re-election battle against Democratic challenger lawyer Bill McBride.

The president was expected on Sunday to sweep into the Midwest to campaign for Norm Coleman who is up against former Vice President Walter Mondale. Mondale entered the race earlier this week replacing Wellstone who along with his wife and daughter was killed in a plane crash over a week ago.

Democratic critics lambaste Bush for his aggressive fund-raising that has netted GOP coffers some $144 million during 90 campaign events. Mcauliffe said Bush has ignored domestic issues such as the ailing U.S. economy, prescription drugs benefits and Social Security.

"I think the president made a strategic error. I think this president, who has enjoyed the highest approval ratings of any president sustained in the history of our country -- first of all, he should be doing a lot better in these elections. He should be winning a lot of Senate seats, he should be winning a lot more House seats, and he should not be in trouble in all these governors races across the country," said Mcauliffe.

Political analysts said the outcome of key races would depend in large part on voter turnout, so both key Democrats and Republicans took to the campaign trail on Saturday in massive pushes in the key states.

President Bill Clinton turned up in Florida to give support to McBride. Cheney pushed into Salt Lake City for a Utah Victory 2002 event, and then headed to Springfield, Mo. First lady Laura Bush, who seldom campaigns, stumped for candidates in Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire and then in South Dakota where she was to join the president on Sunday.

The most watched races are those in the U.S. Senate where Democrats currently hold a one-vote majority. Tuesday's balloting will determine whether they hold on to that lead or lose to Republicans. The GOP lost control of the Senate when Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords switched parties from Republican to Independent, opting to vote with Democrats. The death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone has leveled the partisan Senate field 49 to 49, without Jeffords.

Among those closely watched races is Republican Elizabeth Dole's effort in North Carolina to overcome Democrat Erskine Bowles, former Clinton chief of staff, for the seat to be vacated by Sen. Jesse Helms. Dole had a small lead over Bowles, but the race has grown increasingly tight in the past few weeks. In New Jersey, Democrat Frank Lautenberg stepped in to run against Douglas Forrester after Sen. Robert Torricelli dropped out as his poll numbers dramatically fell. The Lautenberg- Forrester race is also regarded as tight.

Sen. Jean Carnahan, a Democrat, is locked in a tight race in Missouri against Republican Jim Talent, and in Georgia, GOP Rep. Saxby Chamblis is seeking to unseat Democratic incumbent Sen, Max Cleland. In the gubernatorial field, Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is in a close race against Republican challenger Bob Erlich.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington said on CNN'S "Novak, Hunt and Shields" said that Democrats have been talking about what voters want to hear on the economy and other social issues.

"The Democratic Party is talking about what we need to do about that in terms of protecting pensions, in terms of investing in education and job retraining, in terms of making sure that we extend unemployment insurance," Murray said. "These are important things that every one of our candidates is really focusing on, and I think that we will see the results of that in Tuesday's election."

Sen. Bill Frist, of Tennessee, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" was critical of Democrat's economic stance. He charged that the Democrats have obstructed progress with making the president's $1.35 trillion tax cut permanent and an energy plan to keep gasoline prices in check. Rasciot called the Democrats "as paralyzed in their campaigns as they are in serving the people of this country."

"They can't even pass a budget in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is required by law. They can't decide what they want, and they will not help this president address those issues in constructive terms" Rasciot said. "That's why they have blocked all of the efforts to do the things that government can do to address the economy."

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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