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US Election Campaign Nearing the End

The hard-fought U.S. election campaign is drawing to a close, with control of the United States Congress hanging in the balance. Late polls show opposition Democrats have an advantage. But as VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House, President Bush is working hard to make sure his Republican Party remains in charge on Capitol Hill.

The focus of the campaign is shifting in its final hours. Most Americans have made up their minds about the candidates. Now, the push is to get them to cast their ballots.

Elections that take place midway through a president's four-year term in office are usually marked by low voter turnout. This year, with control of both houses of Congress at stake, candidates are making every effort to got voters to the polls.

President Bush is campaigning at a pace more typical of a presidential campaign. In these last days, he is putting in appearances in states that supported him in the past, seeking to energize his Republican base.

"I am now asking you when you go forth to find fellow Republicans and say 'you have got a responsibility to vote,'" said the president. "But while you are doing it, don't overlook discerning Democrats and open-minded independents."

At every stop, Mr. Bush is emphasizing two areas where he says the Republicans are strong: the economy and national security. He knows that a Democratic Party majority in the House, Senate or both could hamper his agenda for his final two years in office, irrevocably altering the way history records his presidency.

Iraq is the issue that appears to be having the greatest impact on voters. New York Senator Charles Schumer is overseeing the Democrats' efforts to win back the Senate. He told NBC's Meet the Press that Americans are hungry for change.

"This election has evolved into a national referendum on change," said Schumer, "and when the election becomes a referendum on George Bush and the 'rubber-stamp' Congress, the Republicans lose. And that is what has happened from one end of the country to the other."

But Republican leaders say they have the infrastructure in place to contact possible voters individually as the election approaches in key districts, and they stress that local issues may well determine the outcome in many parts of the country.

Congressman Tom Reynolds of New York heads the Republican campaign effort in the House of Representatives. On Meet the Press, he said the top issues in his district are those that directly affect the lives of his constituents.

"All politics is local," he said. "The issues in western New York are jobs, taxes, and social security, and that is what this debate has been on, and that is where it will close as it goes to the voters on Tuesday."

Congressman Reynolds was supposed to have an easy race to another term in Congress. Instead, he has had to deal with complaints surrounding his handling of a Congressional ethics issue: the case of a congressman accused of sending salacious e-mails to male, teenaged congressional aides.

Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats in the 435-member House of Representatives to take control for the first time since 1994. They need to gain at least six seats to take over the 100-member Senate. Polls indicate the Democrats are poised to take the House barring any last minute surprises. But few are betting on just what will happen in the Senate where several key races remain deadlocked as Election Day approaches.