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Tuesday’s Election Seen as Referendum on Bush Administration

Voting is underway in the United States in a midterm election widely seen as a referendum on President Bush. The balloting will determine if Mr. Bush’s Republican Party maintains control of Congress. But as VOA’s Peter Fedynsky reports, a victory by the Democrats will not necessarily ensure cooperation between Congress and the White House.

Polling stations in the eastern U.S. states were the first to open. And among the first to vote were politicians themselves. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton. In Virginia, George Allen, running for re-election as the state’s Republican senator, voted and then encouraged his supporters: “Alright! On to victory, team! Thank you all!”

An hour later, voters in the central states began casting ballots. They included President Bush, who voted in his hometown of Crawford Texas.

“We live in a free society, and our government is only as good as the willingness of our people to participate in it,” said the president. “And, therefore, no matter what's your party affiliation or if you don't have a party affiliation, do your duty: cast your ballot and let your voice be heard.”

Analysts say many voters around the nation are doing just that; voting to protest the war in Iraq, the Bush administration and the Republican Congress.

Thelma Smith in Alexandria, Virginia says she voted for change. “The Republicans certainly don’t have a plan. Its been going south [badly] for a very long time. So I think any new plan might have a better chance than what’s been going down [happening].”

If enough voters throughout the nation express the same sentiment, Republicans could lose control of one or both houses of Congress. But election eve polls indicate that the Republican Party had narrowed the lead, which Democrats enjoyed during most of the campaign. Many say Republicans can better wage the war on terror.

Virginia voter Dennis Bakus says this was the main issue for him. “I think America is under a bigger threat than most people realize. I think this is a threat that is not going to go away for a long time and we have to be aware of that.”

Political analysts say that in tight races, such as the key senatorial contests in Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, and Montana, the winners are likely to be those who best motivated their supporters to actually vote. Regardless of who wins control of Congress, President Bush will remain in office for two more years.

George Washington University politics professor Dennis Johnson says politics in Washington are not likely to change.

“If the Democrats take over and the Democrats want to have major legislation: they want to investigate the president, they want to do other things, they have to remember that the president has a veto pen. And every time the president takes out his veto pen, Congress has to come back and enact that legislation by a 2/3rds vote, and frankly the Democrats don’t have the numbers to do that,” said Johnson.

Today’s election trends should become clear as the polls close in the eastern and midwestern states. In many areas, voters will know the final results before they go to bed this evening.