Democrats increase lead over Republicans

A massive move by the middle class away from the Republicans has 56% of likely voters saying they plan to send a Democrat to the House in Nov 7 elections.

india Updated: Oct 27, 2006 17:52 IST

A massive apparent move by the middle class away from the Republicans has 56 per cent of likely voters saying they plan to vote to send a Democrat to the House in the upcoming congressional elections compared with 37 per cent who said they would vote for President George W Bush's Republicans, the latest Associated Press-AOL News poll shows.

If the tally bears this out the November 7 election day, Republican control of the House of Representatives could become a victim of the Iraq war.

Voters rated the war and the economy as their top issues in the poll released on Thursday.

Middle-class voters deserted the Democrats a dozen years ago, but the promise of their return is giving the party its best chance to reclaim the House since the Republicans swept Democrats from power in 1994.

The AP-AOL survey found voters leaning considerably more toward Democrats in the final weeks of the campaign.

"I don't care if I vote for Happy the Clown, just so it's not who's there now," said Mary Nyilas, 51, an independent voter from Cologne, New Jersey.

She said she would do everything she could to "vote against the powers that put us in this situation" in Iraq.

Democrats need to gain 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate to control Congress.

All 435 House seats and 33 in the 100-member Senate are up for election.

Early this month, Democrats had a 10 percentage-point advantage when voters were asked whether they would vote for the Democratic or Republican candidates in their congressional districts.

The Democratic edge is now 19 percentage points.

The AP-AOL News telephone poll of 2,000 adults, 970 of whom are likely voters, was conducted by Ipsos October 20-25.

Dismissing talk of a sour outlook for the Republicans, the House's leader, Speaker Dennis Hastert, cited signs of a strong economy and rejected on Thursday the Democratic argument that voters should fire him and his rank-and-file.

"Things are looking pretty good, and I don't think anybody would really want to change that at this time," he said. However, Bush's approval rating is at a dismal 38 per cent while Congress' is even lower -- 23 per cent.

Two-thirds of adults say America is on the wrong track.

"The country's in a big, big mess," said Cynthia Leininger, 44, a homemaker in Wilson, New York, who says she leans toward Democrats. "I'm looking for change."

In the minority, Democrats are arguing for a change in leadership and trying to tap into intense public anxiety about the Iraq war as well as discontent with Bush and the Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.

The 2006 election has been likened to 1994, when backlash against the controlling Democrats triggered a change in power and ushered in an era of new rulers, the Republicans.

Twelve years later, the tables appear poised to turn, in part because, as an AP analysis shows, fickle middle-class voters are returning to the Democratic Party after abandoning it in 1994.

First Published: Oct 27, 2006 17:52 IST