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No surprise: Democrats and Republicans differ on election predictions

By Tom Cohen, CNN
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says a GOP wave could hand Republicans control of the House and Senate.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says a GOP wave could hand Republicans control of the House and Senate.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nine days before the vote, both sides predict success
  • Rove calls Tea Party movement "wholesome" and "positive"
  • Kaine says Democratic poll numbers are trending up
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Washington (CNN) -- Will an anti-incumbent wave return Republicans to power in the House and Senate, or can Democrats engineer a late rush to hold on to their congressional majorities?

The 2010 mid-term elections comes down to campaign basics in the final nine days until vote-counting begins.

For now, the two parties agree that Republicans will win more seats than they currently hold, but they differ sharply on how many and whether a major power shift will occur.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told NBC's "Meet the Press" program that an unprecedented GOP wave would win control of both chambers as well as state legislatures in a broad condemnation of President Barack Obama and Democratic policies.

"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. "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."

His Democratic counterpart, former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, pointed to strengthening poll numbers for his party's candidates as a sign that the Democratic base was getting energized.

"From this point forward, it's all about turnout and ground game, and we're seeing good early voting trends," said Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chairman, when asked on the ABC program "This Week" if Democrats can hold their majorities. "We've got work to do, but we think we can do it."

While Kaine said the House remains uncertain, he sounded much more confident about the Senate.

"Four or five months ago, the Republicans thought they had a great chance at taking both houses," Kaine said. "For a variety of reasons, the Senate has gotten much more difficult for them. And again, we're seeing this week strong moves in polling for our Senate candidates" in several states.

One of those reasons is inexperienced, conservative ideologues backed by the Tea Party movement who defeated mainstream Republicans in primary elections and now trail Democratic foes as the November 2 vote approaches.

The Delaware race is a prime example. Christine O'Donnell's primary win over nine-term Republican Rep. Mike Castle made a Senate seat once considered likely Republican now an apparent Democratic victory for previously little-known Chris Coons.

O'Donnell's campaign became a national joke over a long-ago comment that she once "dabbled in witchcraft" and other missteps. It also exposed a rift within the political right between the mainstream Republican establishment, which criticized O'Donnell and other Tea Party backed candidates, and the more conservative Tea Party movement.

With the election approaching, Republicans put on a united front Sunday, with GOP strategist Karl Rove -- one of O'Donnell's harshest critics -- calling the Tea Party movement "patriotic" and "incredibly positive."

While noting that Tea Party backers "are not people who are skilled in the ways of Washington," Rove told the CBS program "Face the Nation" he welcomed the movement as a "wholesome development" that would greatly increase Republican turnout in a mid-term election.

Rove predicted Republicans will win well over 50 House seats to easily grab majority control of the chamber, and that a GOP Senate majority also was possible.

On the same program, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland predicted a different outcome, due to voter distrust of what he called special interest money going for anonymous donations to groups running attack ads against Democratic candidates.

The issue hammered by Democrats including Obama in recent weeks was proving resonant, Van Hollen said.

"I'm confident the Democrats are going to retain their majority because the American people are connecting the dots between these tens of millions of dollars of secret special interest money," he said, later adding: "The early voting states are showing good news for the Democrats."

Both Rove and Steele said election disclosure laws should be changed, but added that the anonymous donations to groups running political ads complied with current law. Rove added that Democrats including Obama benefited from similar anonymous campaign funding in the past.

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