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House control in range for Democrats: Reuters poll

John Whitesides / Reuters | November 1 2006

Democrats are ahead in races for 12 of 15 key Republican-held seats in the U.S. House one week before the November 7 elections, placing them within striking range of winning control of the chamber, according to Reuters/Zogby polls released on Wednesday.

Five Democrats had comfortable double-digit leads in the battle for the Congress, with just one Republican, Michele Bachmann in Minnesota, holding a double-digit advantage.

Seven of nine Republican incumbents trailed Democratic challengers in the polls, and Republicans were behind in five of six open Republican-held districts.

Democrats must pick up 15 seats to reclaim control of the House of Representatives, and the polls found Republicans struggling to avoid being swept from power for the first time since 1994.

Since the last round of Reuters/Zogby polls in early October, when Democrats led 11 of the 15 races, Democrats improved their standing in nine districts and Republicans gained ground in six.

Three districts switched leaders, with two Democrats, Ken Lucas in Kentucky and Bruce Braley in Iowa, and one Republican, Rep. Thelma Drake of Virginia, moving into the lead after trailing in October.

"Democrats are getting very close to that magic number of 15," pollster John Zogby said. "Republicans are really on the ropes."

The polls were taken between October 24 and October 29 in 15 of the most competitive House districts across the country. The surveys of at least 500 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Democrats have surged in opinion polls around the country this year, propelled by growing voter disillusionment with the Iraq war, President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress.

The new polls found six Republican incumbents received support from fewer than 40 percent of voters who were asked if they deserved re-election, a very low level that is a danger sign for an incumbent.

The other three Republican incumbents, Reps. Rob Simmons in Connecticut, Drake in Virginia and Heather Wilson in New Mexico, were in the low 40s on the re-election question.


The Democratic leads in 12 of the districts polled puts them in position for a big win next week. Another three dozen House races are considered competitive, and Democrats are favored in several districts not even polled.

Those include the Florida district of Republican Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned in disgrace in a scandal over his lewd messages to teenage male congressional assistants, the Texas district of former Rep. Tom DeLay and the Pennsylvania district of Rep. Don Sherwood, who suffered his own sex scandal last year.

"The numbers are starting to work against Republicans," Zogby said.

Just two Republican incumbents, Simmons and Drake, were ahead in their races. Republican Rep. Geoff Davis of Kentucky, who led Democrat Ken Lucas last month, trailed this time by 3 percentage points, within the margin of error.

Other trailing Republican incumbents were Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, behind Democrat Dianne Farrell 51 percent to 44 percent; Rep. Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania, who trailed Democrat Lois Murphy by 49 percent to 44 percent; Rep. Chris Chocola of Indiana, behind Democrat Joe Donnelly 52 percent to 39 percent, and Rep. Mike Sodrel, who trailed Democrat Baron Hill 48 percent to 46 percent.

Republican Rep. Charles Taylor of North Carolina closed the gap on Democrat Heath Shuler but still trailed by 48 percent to 43 percent, while Wilson in New Mexico was behind Democrat Patricia Madrid 53 percent to 44 percent.

In open seats, Bachmann in Minnesota led Democrat Patty Wetterling by 52 percent to 42 percent, but Democrats led in the five other open House seats polled.


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