SELLERSBURG - President George W. Bush said Saturday that members of his Republican Party would hold onto their majority in Congress, despite polls showing opposition Democrats gaining just 10 days ahead of US legislative elections.

"There are big differences in Washington, DC between Republicans and Democrats," said Bush, speaking to party faithful at his first public rally of the campaign.

Bush was in the Midwestern state of Indiana to help Republican candidates, including Mike Sodrel, who is battling to keep his seat in Congress in a tight race against Democratic challenger Baron Hill.

The biggest differences between the parties, Bush said, lie in "which party will keep the tax low and the economy growing and which party will take the necessary steps to protect you from the terrorists.

"The Democrats will raise your taxes, and the Republicans will keep your taxes low."

Democrats have sought to make the November 7 vote a referendum on Bush and the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush rejected Democratic criticism that the administration lacks a plan in Iraq. "We will defeat the enemy in Iraq," he said. "We have a plan for victory. The only way we will not succeed is if we leave before the job is done."

According to Bush, the Democrats "will leave before the job is done, and we will not let them.

"We will stay, we will fight and we will win."

Voters will select candidates in the November 7 elections to fill all of the seats in the US House of Representatives and a third of the Senate.

Republicans face a serious threat of losing the House and maybe even the Senate as a new wave of violence sweeps Iraq, corruption and sex scandals shake up Capitol Hill and Bush's popularity rating wavers.

Democrats must win 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate to gain control of Congress, which would enable them to complicate Bush's efforts to carry out his agenda in the remaining years of his term, which ends in January 2009.

For the past two months, Bush has been attending Republican fundraisers, helping his political allies to raise money, the main weapon in the US electoral war.

The embattled Sodrel has had visits from Vice President Dick Cheney as well as from one of the few remaining popular Republicans, First Lady Laura Bush.

The president and his allies have also made full use of their political agenda, enacting laws on terrorism, domestic security and immigration as close as possible to Election Day.

Bush issued a similar message in his weekly radio address, warning Americans that their taxes would increase if Democrats took over Congress, because he said the tax cuts adopted during his administration would not be reauthorized.

"Next time you're having dinner at home, look around the table and multiply the number of children you have by 500 dollars," Bush said. "That's how much more you will be sending to Washington in taxes if Democrats take control of the Congress."

Bush said that US voters will focus on who will be able to protect the country better against a new terrorist attack, and who can ensure continued economic growth and virtually full employment.

"The decision you make on election day will have a direct impact on America's economy and on your family budget," the president warned.

As Democrats try to steer the election debate toward Iraq and Bush's low job approval ratings, the president counters by saying that local issues will determine the outcome of many races.

Knowing that turnout will be crucial to the outcome of the vote, Bush and his allies are now focusing on persuading their supporters to actually cast ballots on Election Day.

A poll released Thursday showed Democrats with an 11-point lead, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

Pew polled registered voters in the 40 most contested election districts and found that Democrats enjoyed an advantage in those districts similar to their nationwide spread.

Democrats' 50 percent to 39 percent edge in contested districts was nearly the same as in so-called safe districts, at 49 percent to 38 percent.

An October 26-27 Newsweek poll of 1,002 people, released Saturday, showed that on a national level, Democrats were favored 53 percent to 39 percent over Republicans among likely voters, and Iraq remained voters' top concern.

Voters also have more confidence in Democrats than in Republicans for handling the situation in Iraq (by 45 percent to 33 percent), according to the poll, yet 29 percent of Americans say the United States is making progress, up four points from last week.

10/28/2006 23:26 GMT

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