Top Democrat says election outlook improves

WASHINGTON Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:16pm EDT

President-elect Barack Obama (R) introduces Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as the new Democratic National Committee chairman in Washington, January 8, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

President-elect Barack Obama (R) introduces Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as the new Democratic National Committee chairman in Washington, January 8, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Democratic Party chief said on Sunday he was feeling more optimistic that Democrats would retain control of the Congress, citing his party's get-out-the vote efforts ahead of the November 2 elections.

"We still have some work to do, but what Democrats tend to specialize in is the ground game, the turnout," Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine said on ABC's "This Week" program.

"The more people turn out, the better we do, and we are seeing strong trends at the presidential rallies and early voting," he said.

Republicans are trying to regain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate from President Barack Obama's Democrats in the elections next month. If Republicans controlled either chamber, Obama would have a tougher time getting his agenda through Congress.

Unhappiness with the weak economy has driven some voters away from Obama and his fellow Democrats.

Republican Party chief Michael Steele said he expected a wave of voting that would benefit his party.

"There is a vibration out here that is unlike anything I've ever seen before," Steele told the NBC program "Meet the Press.

"The voters are tired of the fact that the federal government has not listened to them over the past two years, has moved in its own direction, at its own rhythm and they want to pull back on that," Steele said.

'SURPRISE A LOT OF PEOPLE'

"And I think you're going to see a wave, an unprecedented wave on Election Day that's going to surprise a lot of people," Steele said.

He expressed confidence that Republicans would seize control of the House, as some opinion polls have indicated is likely. Kaine disagreed, saying that while "I think it's going to be close," Democrats will not lose control of the House.

"The Senate is a little bit tougher, but I think we're going to be there," Steele said. "If this wave continues the way it's going, it has been over the last few weeks especially, I think you could see the Senate as well goes to Republicans."

Democrats have faced tough political conditions all year. In addition, the party that holds the White House typically loses seats in Congress in a mid-term election,

Polls show Republicans are likely to take over the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are up for grabs. Republicans are also expected to cut into Democrats' majority in the Senate, where about a third of the seats in the 100-seat chamber are being contested.

Kaine said Obama was helping to re-energize Democrats and that since early September polls have been "moving for us." Polls are showing that races are tightening between the parties, with Democrats becoming more competitive.

He also said for "a variety of reasons," the battle for control of the Senate has gotten much more difficult for Republicans.

Republicans also are hoping to win a number of key state governor races on November 2.

In the California governor's race, the biggest such contest, a new poll showed that Democrat Jerry Brown has more than doubled his lead over Republican rival Meg Whitman, gaining support from Latino voters after an illegal immigration furor over the former eBay chief's former housekeeper.

A Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll on Sunday gave Brown 52 percent support, compared to 39 percent for Whitman among likely voters.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Will Dunham and Paul Simao)

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