WASHINGTON — He is not on the ballot, but President Barack Obama was the focus in a final-weekend clash between candidates and party leaders as an increasingly confident Republican Party eyes control of Congress two days before Election Day.
“I’m very proud of this president,” head of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said on Sunday while predicting victory despite disappointing polls.
“I think we’re going to win the Senate,” she said.
The Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, blamed Obama for weakness abroad and an economy that has not recovered as quickly as it should have.
“This is really the last chance for America to pass judgment on the Obama administration and on its policies,” Romney said in a message echoed by Republicans – and even some Democrats – across the country this weekend.
The midterm elections will determine which party controls of the House, Senate and 36 governors’ seats for Obama’s final two years in office. Republicans, who need to net six seats to take the Senate, appear certain of at least three – in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota.
There are nine other competitive Senate contests, six of them for seats in Democratic hands.
The campaigns shifted toward voter turnout as each side encourages its supporters to get to the polls on Tuesday in a midterm campaign expected to draw roughly 40 percent of the voting-age population. Large percentages of younger voters and minorities are expected to sit out the elections altogether.
Early voting has been strong, however.
At least 16.4 million people have voted so far across 31 states, according to early voting data monitored by the AP. Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina and Wisconsin already surpassed their 2010 advance totals.
“The problem they have is that their message isn’t working and our ground game is whipping their ground game,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said on Sunday, asserting early voting advantages in Colorado, Arkansas and Iowa.
“The Democrats are going to have a terrible night. We’re going to have a great night,” he said. “And it’s because Barack Obama’s policies and Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s policies and Harry Reid’s policies are on the ballot.”
The final Sunday before the election was bringing out big names, including some who aren’t on the ballot now but could be in 2016.
Obama, saddled by low approval ratings, has avoided the nation’s most competitive Senate contests. But he was placing his ability to energize voters to the test in two high-profile governor races on Sunday, trying to save a Democrat in Connecticut and unseat a Republican in Pennsylvania.
During a Detroit rally Saturday, Obama pitched an economic message to middle-class Americans, particularly women.
Possible Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was scheduled to visit New Hampshire on Sunday.
In the Florida governor’s contest Vice President Joe Biden was to join Republican-turned-Democrat former Gov. Charlie Crist for events in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, while former Gov. Jeb Bush campaigns with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
On the Republican side, Romney, who reiterated on Sunday that he would not make a third White House run, was campaigning in Alaska with Senate candidate Dan Sullivan and Gov. Sean Parnell, who is seeking another term.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is expected to enter the 2016 Republican presidential primary, was to stop in South Carolina, Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania. And Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was campaigning across Kentucky.
“This is going to be a repudiation of the president’s policies,” Paul said on Sunday. “The president is on the ballot in a way.”
Wasserman Schultz and Priebus appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” Paul spoke on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” while Romney was interviewed on Fox News Sunday.