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On last day, politicians make final dash to sew up support
President Bush barnstormed through four battleground states on Monday in a final appeal for Republicans in Congress who will vote to make tax cuts permanent and confirm conservative judges. Democrats worked for a strong voter turnout to tilt key races their way.
"We'll see what the voters and the Good Lord has in store tomorrow," said Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Sanford in South Carolina, summing up the hopes -- and anxiety -- of candidates everywhere.
While Bush and the Democrats focused their energies on dozens of races, Minnesota Senate rivals Walter F. Mondale and Norm Coleman staged the final debate of the campaign season. They were partially upstaged by the governor's appointment of an interim replacement for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.
In the House, where all 435 seats are at stake on Tuesday, Democrats need a gain of seven to win control. But it was the Republicans who sounded upbeat -- suggesting they could even defy historical trends and pick up a seat or two at Bush's midterm. "To be on the edge of breaking that historical trend is a significant accomplishment," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
The Senate is divided 49-49, with two independents, and the battle for control hinged on six or eight races judged as tossups or nearly so in the late polls.
South Dakota was home to one, pitting Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson against GOP Rep. John Thune. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, the state's other senator, worked to preserve Johnson's Senate tenure -- and his own grip on power as leader of the Democratic majority.
'I'm not undecided'
Bush, his approval ratings over 60 percent, worked his way from Iowa to Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, the end of an intense effort to elect Republican governors and members of the House and Senate.
"I'll be voting in Crawford, Texas, tomorrow morning," the president said in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "I'm not undecided."
As he has at dozens of rallies, he stressed the importance of the war on terrorism, criticized Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and renewed his call for a Department of Homeland Security built to his specifications.
While Bush was barnstorming, Democrats put their hopes in a large turnout of key constituencies, blacks and members of union households among them.
"If we get the vote out, we'll win this election," Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride said in Florida, where polls showed him trailing Gov. Jeb Bush.
Democrats elected governors in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama four years ago, in large measure because of strong support from black voters. Two years ago, presidential candidate Al Gore ran better in several Southern states than anticipated.
"I would say that minority turnout will be most influential in Louisiana, Georgia, Texas and even Colorado" in the Senate races, said Sen. Bill Frist, the head of the GOP senatorial campaign committee.
Donna Brazille, a consultant to the Democrats, said the turnout effort this year includes paid radio advertisements, flyers delivered to churches over the weekend, and recorded messages from Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby and others that are dialed by computer into millions of targeted households.
"When it comes to African-Americans, there is no better motivator, no better closer than Bill Clinton," she said. She estimated that Clinton's voice would be heard in as many as 15 million households on Election Day through a technique known as "robo-calls."
Democrats also ran radio advertisements recorded by politicians and nonpoliticians alike, including one by a prominent rap producer aimed at young blacks.
"Yo, this is Russell Simmons, check this out," it said. "Your forefathers died to give you the right to vote. Most of you young people are not voting."