WASHINGTON — The Republican Party chief on Sunday forecast a wave of anti-Democratic voting on Election Day while his Democratic counterpart said a strong get-out-the-vote effort would hold back losses and help keep Congress out of GOP hands.
Nine days before elections that will decide whether President Barack Obama will face a Republican Congress, party chairman Michael Steele said he has seen a groundswell and energy behind GOP candidates as he has traveled around the country.
"I think you are going to see a wave, an unprecedented wave on Election Day that is going to surprise a lot of people," Steele said.
Steele said he believes "absolutely" that Republicans will gain the seats needed to become the majority party in the House and thus oust Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. He was less certain that Republicans will take over the Senate.
Tim Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chairman, expressed confidence that Democrats would retain power in both chambers. He argued that early voting and turnout at rallies for Democratic candidates are evidence that the party's "ground game" will prevent the disaster some are predicting for the party.
"From this point forward it's all about turnout and ground game," Kaine said. "We've got work to do, but we think we can do it."
In a mid-October survey of people likely to vote, an Associated Press-GfK poll found all signs pointing to a huge Republican victory on Nov. 2. In the survey, 50 percent said they will back the GOP candidate in their House district while 43 percent say they will support the Democrat. The GOP edge slightly narrowed in recent weeks as Democrats grew more energized.
Republicans need a 40-seat gain to take over the House. By some estimates at least 75 House seats may change hands, and most of those are held by Democrats. An additional two dozen other races for Democratic-controlled seats have tightened in recent weeks.
Republican political adviser Karl Rove predicted GOP gains in the upper 50s to low 60s in the House, well over the number needed for a GOP majority. Polls show intensity among voters on the side of those favoring the GOP, he said.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the chairman of the Democrats' House campaign committee, said he believes the House will remain in Democratic control, saying that early voting was showing good news for the party.
In the Senate, Democrats are seen as having a better chance of holding their majority even though 37 seats are up for election. Democrats currently have 57 seats, plus the backing of two independents, but they are expected to lose some seats to Republicans.
Steele said Republicans hope for a better relationship between Obama and a GOP-controlled Congress than they have seen with Democrats in the majority in the House and the Senate. Kaine said some economic issues might draw bipartisan support once the election is behind the two parties.
Steele appeared Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" while Kaine spoke on ABC's "This Week." Rove and Van Hollen appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation."