Republican momentum

Dan Balz:

After months of unrelenting bad news, President Bush and his Republican allies have begun to change the mood, if not the overall trajectory, of a midterm-election campaign that has tilted against them for a year.

A combination of good luck and timing — in the form of a sharp decline in gasoline prices — and dogged persistence by the president's political team in trying to redefine the terms of the fall campaign has given a much-needed morale boost to beleaguered Republican candidates.

The ebullience many Democrats exhibited throughout the summer has given way to more cautious assessments.

Republicans remain on the defensive, anticipating losses in the Senate and possible loss of control in the House. Surveys show that voters strongly disapprove of the performance of this Congress and continue to express far greater willingness to vote for Democrats over Republicans in House races.

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Donald Lambro says the Dems haave lost their edge:

The Democrats' yearlong lead among likely voters has evaporated, strengthening Republican chances of holding majority control in the House, according to the Gallup Poll.
Gallup's latest survey of voters who say they will go to the polls Nov. 7 showed the contest is a "dead heat" between those who say they will vote Republican (48 percent) and those who say they intend to support Democrats (48 percent). The poll of 1,003 adults was conducted Sept. 15-17.
Democrats continue to maintain an advantage among registered voters; however, pollsters consider likely voters to be a more accurate measurement of the electorate's preferences. The neck-and-neck estimates suggest the Republicans have the potential to offset the Democrats' lead "with greater turnout," Gallup said last week in an analysis of its findings.
"Should that result persist until Election Day, it suggests Republicans would be able to maintain their majority-party status in the House," Gallup said.
Democratic strategists dismiss Gallup's survey and other polls showing a similar tightening of the election, but some acknowledge that Republicans' numbers were helped by President Bush's higher job-approval scores -- now at 44 percent -- and his recent speeches highlighting the war on terrorism and its connection to the ongoing conflict in Iraq.
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However, additional polling data released by Gallup within the past week suggest that not only is the president changing voter attitudes about the war in Iraq, but that the Democrats' inability to shape a strong message about dealing with terrorism and Iraq may be hurting them among their own base.
"Americans are more positive about the war on terror, and voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Bush on terrorism, rather than one who opposes him," Gallup said in a separate analysis. "By a slight margin, Americans tend to think that the country will be safer from terrorism if the GOP retains control of the House, rather than if the Democrats take control."
While a majority of Americans still disapprove of Mr. Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, only one in four now "believe the Democrats have a clear plan on Iraq -- fewer than those who say this about the Bush administration," Gallup said.
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The polls continue to fail to ask the most important question about the war in Iraq, "Do you want to lose?" Approval or satisfaction polling does not answeer this crucial question. There is a tendency to put all disapproves or dissatisfied into the anti war column, but it is highly likely that many of them want to do more to win.

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