Wooing voters at last hour

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RE-ELECTION BID: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton at her campaign rally in New York on Monday. PHOTO: AP
RE-ELECTION BID: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton at her campaign rally in New York on Monday. PHOTO: AP

WASHINGTON: With Tuesday's national election overshadowed by discontent and division over the Iraq War, Republicans and Democrats sent thousands of volunteers to States with the most contested Congressional races to work phone banks and canvass neighbourhoods to turn out voters.

President George W. Bush spent Monday urging Republicans in Southern States to get out and vote.

Republicans repeated their assertion that Democrats would raise taxes and prematurely pull out of Iraq if they controlled Congress.

Democrats pressed their case for change, arguing that Republicans on Capitol Hill blindly followed Mr. Bush's ``failed policy.''

Focus on Iraq

Iraq has dominated the campaign season, and Republicans and Democrats sparred over the war again on Sunday following Saddam Hussein's conviction on crimes against humanity.

The greatest obstacle to both parties is the historical tendency for voter turnout to be mediocre in off-year elections.

Polls showed a mixed picture of the electorate. A CNN poll released on Monday said 58 per cent of likely voters would cast their ballots for Democrats running for Congress and 38 per cent for Republicans. Up for grabs are 435 House seats, 33 Senate seats, governorships in 36 States, and thousands of State legislative and local races.

In 37 States, voters also will determine the fate of ballot initiatives, including whether to ban gay marriage, raise the minimum wage, endorse expanded embryonic stem cell research and in South Dakota impose the country's most stringent abortion restrictions.

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton, on Sunday led a rally at which the former President cautioned that Republicans would try to suppress voter turnout.

``This country was founded on the consent of the governed. There is no ruling class in America, and they do not have the right to disenfranchise voters,'' Mr. Clinton told the cheering crowd. ``When they come after someone else's vote, it won't be long before they come after yours.''

Mr. Clinton was introduced by his wife, who called him her ``chief case worker'' in New York. AP



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