- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2014

Democrats and Republicans gazed Sunday into starkly different crystal balls ahead of midterm elections a little more than a week away, doubling down on their chances to retain or retake the upper chamber and backing their respective leaders as men of vision.

Republican candidates are polling slightly ahead of Democrats in top Senate races, raising GOP hopes of gaining six seats and full control of Congress.

But Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, insisted that his party’s ground game, focus on economic issues and quality of candidates will help it retain a Senate majority. He said the Democrats’ on-the-ground efforts are so good that folks should “add 2 to 3 points” to their candidate’s side in each race.

“Democrats are going to prove the pundits wrong when we keep the Senate,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Republicans say not so fast. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio insisted that “voter intensity is on our side.” As an example, he said early voting in Iowa shows the GOP ahead in turnout.

“That’s never happened before,” Mr. Portman said. “All the polls show that, you know, this is going to be a good year for Republicans. It’s a good environment for us.”

Republicans are employing a strategy that links Democratic incumbents and challengers to President Obama, who polls poorly in key red states with seats in flux.

“I don’t think the president can help in those states there,” Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “These people have voted against the president on issues. I’ve watched them and worked with them.”

Focusing on the Senate itself, Mr. Schumer and Mr. Portman offered support for their respective leaders — Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, respectively — despite some waffling among party colleagues on the campaign trail.

Mr. Portman said Mr. McConnell of Kentucky would be an effective majority leader, while Mr. Schumer backed Mr. Reid of Nevada even though some Democrats have suggested they could do better.

“Harry Reid will run for majority leader, and he will win with any overwhelming, probably close to majority, vote,” Mr. Schumer said.

But his Ohio counterpart said the Senate will be a legislative quagmire so long as Mr. Reid is the gatekeeper.

He has refused to bring to the floor scores of bills passed by the Republican-led House, leading to perceptions that Congress is in gridlock, which Mr. Obama and Democrats on Capitol Hill blame on Republicans.

“The only way we get something done is winning the majority,” Mr. Portman said. “Washington needs to get its act together and start passing stuff.”

His support for Mr. McConnell contrasted sharply with endorsements for his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, in a pair of the Bluegrass State’s top newspapers. The Lexington Herald-Leader’s editorial board was particularly scathing.

“McConnell does have power. He commands a perpetual-motion money machine; dollars flow in, favors flow out,” they wrote. “The problem is how McConnell uses his power. He has repeatedly hurt the country to advance his political strategy.”

But Mr. McConnell, a Senate veteran since 1985, can find solace in some of the latest polls. Figures from the CBS News/New York Times Upshot/YouGov Battleground Tracker has him up by 6 percentage points.

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