Mitch McConnell and other political heavyweights campaigning as vote nears
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Party leaders are predicting victory for their side in Tuesday's election that will determine Senate control as candidates in crucial contests enlist support from political heavyweights and clash over women's issues and the economy.
Republicans seem to have more reason for optimism that they can add a Senate majority to the one they have in the House. Yet the head of the Democratic National Committee insists otherwise.
"Democrats will hold the Senate," Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told The Associated Press.
Her GOP counterpart, Reince Priebus, described what he called a growing consensus that his party will run the Senate during President Barack Obama's last two years in office.
"I'm feeling pretty confident about where we are across the country," Priebus said in an interview, citing key races where he believes Democrats are losing their advantage among female voters.
"I don't think they ought to be bragging," he said, asserting that "even Mitch McConnell," the Senate's top Republican, was outperforming Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes among women in Kentucky.
The midterm elections also will determine all 435 House seats and 36 governors' seats.
Republicans, who need six new seats to take the Senate, appear certain of at least three - in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota. There are nine other competitive races, six of them for seats in Democratic hands.
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.
Wasserman Schultz cited the early vote totals as evidence her party was well-positioned heading into Election Day, although the votes are almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.
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.
President Barack Obama was placing his ability to energize voters to the test in two high-profile governor races, 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.
Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who says he will not make a third White House run, planned to campaign 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.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the overwhelming Democratic favorite for president should she run in 2016, was scheduled to visit New Hampshire.
Over the election's last weekend, anxious Democrats aggressively courted female voters in contests from Colorado to New Hampshire.
Women were the focus in Kentucky on Saturday as Clinton, appearing with Grimes, endorsed a higher minimum wage and equal pay for women. "It's not, as Alison rightly said, only a woman's issue," Clinton said in remarks to more than 1,000 people at Northern Kentucky University. "It's a family issue. It's a fairness issue."
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