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Democrats and
Republicans battling to the bitter end

Democrats and
Republicans battling to the bitter end


Republicans and Democrats pushed their get-out-the-vote efforts to full throttle on Monday as political luminaries hopscotched across the nation on behalf of candidates

With Tuesday's national election dominated by discontent with the Iraq War and some polls showing the race tightening, Republicans and Democrats pushed their get-out-the-vote efforts to full throttle and political luminaries hopscotched across the nation on behalf of candidates.

President George W. Bush jetted to Florida on Monday to campaign for Republican candidates, but Charlie Crist--the Republican candidate for governor who has been battling rumors that he is gay--planned to duck a rally with Bush in Pensacola to campaign at the Lox Around the Clock restaurant in Delray Beach.

The White House staff, which had already distributed schedules saying Crist would introduce Bush at the rally, was clearly irritated with the candidate's decision not to appear with the president. Bush political strategist Karl Rove mockingly questioned what kind of alternative rally Crist could put together that would rival the 10,000-person crowd Bush was expected to draw.

Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton, the Democrats' star campaigner, campaigned in New York state on behalf of Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives before flying to Virginia for Senate challenger Jim Webb and Rhode Island to be with Senate candidate Sheldon Whitehouse. Clinton's wife, New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, is expected to win re-election handily.

Iraq has dominated the campaign season, and Republicans and Democrats sparred over the war again Sunday following Saddam Hussein's conviction on crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to die by hanging; an appeal is planned.

Democrats hope to ride voter disapproval of Bush, the war, and a scandal-plagued Republican Congress to regain control of the Senate and the House. They need a gain of 15 seats in the House, where all 435 seats are up for a vote, and of six in the 100-member Senate, where 33 seats are on the ballot.

Republicans and Democrats sent thousands of volunteers to states with the most contested races to work phone banks and canvass neighborhoods to turn out voters. The greatest obstacle for both parties is the historical tendency for voter turnout to be mediocre in nonpresidential elections. Both parties have put together legal teams for possible challenges regarding voting.

Polls showed a mixed picture of the electorate. A CNN poll released Monday said 58% of likely voters would cast their ballots for Democrats running for Congress and 38% for Republicans. But a Pew survey and a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed the gap narrowing to four to six percentage points.

''I think there is a lot of energy on the Democratic side. It was inevitable that the Republicans on their side would start to come back a little. But from early indications from our side, our field operation, I feel good about it,'' Congressman Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic effort, told reporters in a conference call on Monday.

Said Republican Party chairman Ken Mehlman in a memo: ''New polls say our party is heading into Election Day with strong momentum.''

Among hundreds of referendums, eight states will vote on proposed bans on same-sex marriage. Passage is considered certain in Idaho, South Carolina, and Tennessee. But gay rights leaders believe their side is at least competitive in Arizona, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, and South Dakota. In addition to a proposed marriage ban, Colorado voters will also decide whether to give gay couples the right to form domestic partnerships, providing some of the state-level rights and protections afforded to married couples. (AP, with additional reporting by The Advocate)

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