Washington Middle-class voters who deserted the Democratic Party a dozen years ago are now giving the party its best chance to reclaim the House since the GOP swept Democrats from power in 1994.
Motivated by anger at President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, 56 percent of likely voters said they would vote Nov. 7 to send a Democrat to the House and 37 percent said they would vote Republican. Voters in the latest Associated Press-AOL News poll rated Iraq and the economy as their top issues.
"I don't care if I vote for Happy the Clown, just so it's not who's there now," said Mary Nyilas, 51, an independent voter from Cologne, N.J., who said she would do everything she could to "vote against the powers that put us in this situation" in Iraq.
Less than two weeks before voters elect a new Congress, the poll showed Republicans are in jeopardy of losing their grip on the House after a dozen years in power. The survey found voters leaning considerably more toward Democrats in the final weeks of the campaign.
In early October, Democrats had a 10 percentage-point advantage when voters were asked whether they would vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in their congressional district. The Democratic edge is now 19 percentage points.
In the minority, Democrats need to gain 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate to win control of Congress. They are arguing for a change in leadership and trying to tap into intense public anxiety about the Iraq war as well as discontent with Bush and the Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.
The 2006 election has been likened to 1994, when backlash against the controlling party - then the Democrats - triggered a change in power and ushered in an era of new rulers - in that case, the Republicans.
Back then, middle-class voters - those earning less than $75,000 a year and those who have graduated high school or have some college education - fled the Democrats in droves.
This fall, however, the AP-AOL News poll shows that Democrats have an advantage among middle-class voters.
A majority of middle-class voters now favor Democrats to control the House and say that Democrats best represent their most closely held beliefs. They trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle the situation in Iraq, which most of them view as a mistake. The war is this voting group's most important issue. The economy and health care are close behind.