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Polls Show US Democrats' Election Prospects Improving


Several new public opinion polls indicate opposition Democrats are on track to make substantial gains in next month's congressional midterm elections. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the U.S. election campaign from Washington.

The latest surveys suggest Democratic prospects are improving because of public unhappiness over Iraq and a congressional scandal involving a former Republican congressman from Florida.

The polls were conducted in recent days by several major news organizations, including ABC News and the Washington Post, CBS News and the New York Times, and the USA Today newspaper and the Gallup polling organization.

The polls show voters prefer Democrats on a range of issues including Iraq, the economy, and in some cases, even in handling the overall war on terrorism.

Democrats say they are ready to accommodate what they see as a public mood for change.

Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel is leading the Democratic effort to win a majority in the House of Representatives. He spoke on ABC's This Week program.

"They do not want to stay on the course you have set for this country," he said. "They want a new direction. They want a change."

Republican prospects have dimmed in recent days because of the congressional scandal involving former Representative Mark Foley, a Republican from Florida. Foley resigned after it came to light that he had inappropriate e-mail contact with young House pages.

Illinois Republican Congressman Ray LaHood acknowledges that the Foley scandal combined with public uneasiness over Iraq have created a very difficult election climate for the Republican Party.

He spoke about the challenge for Republicans on the CBS program, Face the Nation.

"To persuade the American people that we can govern," he said. "But this is going to be the most difficult 30 days in the last 12 years since we have been the majority party [in Congress]."

Most political analysts predict that Republicans will have a difficult time trying to retain control of both the House and Senate in November.

"The mood of the electorate is sour," said Stephen Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington. "Less than 30 percent of the people approve of the job that Congress is doing. A month before the election, more people say that they would rather have the Democrats in control of Congress than the Republicans."

Independent political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says public skepticism about the war in Iraq is a major factor in this year's election.

"The number-one reason for the mood is, I think clearly, the war in Iraq," he said. "The daily dose of bad news, whether it is about U.S. casualties and fatalities, or about [casualties among] Iraqis, or about the inability of the government in Iraq and security forces to stabilize the situation there."

Rothenberg and other analysts believe it is likely Democrats will win the 15 additional seats they need to retake the House.

Most experts predict it will be tougher for Democrats to gain the six seats they need to win back control of the Senate.

Republicans caution that they have plenty of time to rally their core supporters with four weeks to go until Election Day.

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