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Political Parties Make Final Push for Votes in US Election

A U.S. congressional election campaign dominated by the war in Iraq is drawing to a close, with opposition Democrats expecting to make gains when the vote takes place on Tuesday. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has the latest on the midterm congressional election from Washington.

Late opinion polls suggest Republicans may be narrowing the gap with Democrats in some key congressional races, especially in half a dozen close Senate contests that will determine which party controls that chamber for the next two years.

Democrats remain confident about their prospects to win control of the 435-member House of Representatives for the first time since 1994. Most experts predict the Democrats will gain the 15 seats they need to retake the House.

The prospects for Democratic control of the Senate are less certain. Democrats need to pick up six seats to gain a majority there and they would have to sweep most of the close Senate races now underway in Missouri, Virginia, Maryland, Montana and Rhode Island. Four of those seats are currently held by Republicans.

In the final hours of the campaign, both parties focused on getting their core supporters to turn out at the polls on Tuesday.

Senator Chris Dodd campaigned for fellow Democrats in the northeastern state of Connecticut.

"Two more days and Democrats are going to take back the House of Representatives and the United States Senate and we are back on the trail again here," he said.

President Bush also kept a busy campaign schedule on behalf of Republican candidates around the country. The president urged voters to ignore opinion polls and experts that predict Democratic victories on election day.

"Whatever you do, do not pay any attention to the prognosticators, the pundits," he said. You see, a bunch of them have already decided that the verdict is in. But they forgot that the folks in Kansas have not gotten to the polls yet."

Perhaps no Senate race is closer than the one in Missouri between the Republican incumbent, Jim Talent, and his Democratic challenger, Claire McCaskill.

Both of them rallied supporters in the final hours of the campaign.

"Keep pushing. Another 48 hours and we will win this election," said Talent.

"We are going to win when it counts on Tuesday," said McCaskill.

Democrats remain optimistic about their election chances in large part because of public unhappiness over the war in Iraq and President Bush's low approval rating.

"The decisive issue is Iraq," said public opinion pollster John Zogby. "It is what has divided this country and it is what has lost popularity for the president and for the Republicans."

Republicans are counting on a repeat of their superior get-out-the-vote effort in recent election campaigns to limit Democratic gains on Tuesday.

In addition to the 435 House seats, 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate are at stake and 36 states will elect governors on Tuesday. Voters in 37 states will also be asked to vote on an assortment of ballot questions on issues that include abortion, homosexual marriage, and embryonic stem cell research.