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US Election Campaign Heads Into Final Two Weeks

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin speaks to the crowd during the kickoff of the nationwide Tea Party Express bus tour in Reno, Nevada,18 Oct 2010
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin speaks to the crowd during the kickoff of the nationwide Tea Party Express bus tour in Reno, Nevada,18 Oct 2010

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There are less than two weeks left in the U.S. congressional midterm election campaign, and analysts say opposition Republicans appear poised to make significant gains on November 2.

Several recent public opinion surveys show Republicans holding an edge among registered voters.  The latest Gallup poll finds 48 percent supporting Republican candidates, and 43 percent favoring Democratic candidates.  But among likely voters surveyed, the Republican margin is greater.  And experts say the Republican edge among likely voters in numerous surveys points to significant gains in November at the expense of Democrats.

Democrats are doing all they can to mobilize their voters in the final two weeks of the campaign.  Among those lending a hand is first lady Michelle Obama, who spoke recently at a Democratic Party fundraising event in New York.  
"We are not there just because of an election.  We are not there just because we support folks that we love.  We are here to renew that promise," said President Obama.

One of the most visible Republicans on the campaign trail this year is former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.  Palin kicked off a Tea Party bus tour in Nevada that will travel to 19 states in hopes of generating support for Republican candidates on Election Day.

"Mr. Obama and your czars, you are next because now we can see 2012 from our house!" said Palin.

There has been a flurry of contentious candidate debates around the country in recent days.  And on television, the candidate ad wars are heating up.

One of the most hard-fought races in the country is the battle for a U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky between Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Rand Paul, a favorite of grassroots conservative and libertarian activists who make up the Tea Party movement.

Conway is running television ads accusing Paul of belonging to an anti-Christian group when he was a college student.

CONWAY AD: "Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a hoax?"

Paul reacted angrily to Conway during a recent debate.

"Jack, you should be ashamed of yourself," Paul retorted.  "You should apologize.  Have you no decency?"

Political experts say Republicans are on track to benefit this year from voter anger and frustration over the domestic economy and the high unemployment rate.

Allan Lichtman is a presidential historian at American University here in Washington:

"But certainly, if the economy is bad, bad things are going to happen for the party holding the White House.  As [a former President] Herbert Hoover said, 'the president gets the credit for the sunshine and the blame for the rain,'" noted Lichtman.

President Barack Obama has a lot at stake in the November elections.  A Republican takeover of one or both houses of Congress would have a huge impact on the president's domestic agenda, says analyst Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News.

"But I think the House [of Representatives] will go Republican and what it really means is that for the more ambitious elements of President Obama's legislative agenda, you can just kiss goodbye for the next two years," said DeFrank.

Republicans need a gain of 39 seats in the 435-member House of Representatives to retake control of that chamber and they need a 10-seat gain to win a majority in the 100-member Senate.  Republicans lost control of both chambers to Democrats in the last midterm elections in 2006.

See related report by Laurel Bowman:

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