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Democrats brace for mid-term punishment. -

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In the US, Democrats are bracing themselves for major losses in the mid-term elections, including
the possibility they will lose control of Congress.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: In the US, Democrats are bracing themselves for major losses in the
mid-term elections, including the possibility they'll relinquish control of Congress.

The sluggish economic recovery and the consistently high jobless rate continue to dominate as the
biggest issues.

In a sign of just how tough things are for the Democrats, a normally safe Senate seat in California
is coming down to the wire.

North America correspondent Lisa Millar reports from California.

LISA MILLAR, REPORTER: It's Saturday morning in San Francisco's Democratic headquarters. These
volunteers are getting their marching orders for another day of door-knocking. And like Democrats
across the country, they've got a fight on their hands.

DEMOCRAT VOLUNTEER: We know for the most part that we could, we could lose 30 seats, you know. But
when you think about, what?, the possibility of talking 65 seats, 30 is nothing.

LISA MILLAR: So you're feeling sort of pumped heading out there today, are you?

DEMOCRAT VOLUNTEER II: Yes, that's right, that's right.

LISA MILLAR: Even though the opinion polls say that the Democrats are not faring very well at all,
how does that make you feel when you're heading out there?

DEMOCRAT VOLUNTEER II: Makes me feel glad to be in San Francisco because that's not what's gonna
happen here.

LISA MILLAR: California's voting habits have been as predictable as the sunshine and surf. It's
been 20 years since the country's most populous state sent a Republican Senator to Washington. But
it's now delivering one of the most fascinating battles of this campaign and it's the clearest sign
of the trouble facing the Democratic Party right across the country.

SIMON JACKMAN, STANFORD UNI: If there's a big swing on to Republicans and they start to make
in-roads here in California, that'll be a real sign of just how far things have turned sour for
Democrats right across the country, if a state like California starts to break for Republicans and
starts to accept the Republican message of smaller government, smaller taxes.

LISA MILLAR: On one side is Democrat Barbara Boxer, a socially liberal senator who's had the job
for 18 years. She's facing the biggest challenge of her career in Carly Fiorina, the former head of
computer giant Hewlett-Packard.

If Carly Fiorina snatches this jewel of California from the Democrats, there's little doubt
Republicans will be claiming the Senate.

CARLA MARINUCCI, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE: Big money, big names, big drama in California and really
big stakes for president Barack Obama here.

LISA MILLAR: The San Francisco Chronicle's senior political writer is covering another high-profile
race today. The former eBay boss and Republican Meg Whitman is trailing Jerry Brown in the
governor's race to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But it's the closeness of the senate race between Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina that has
political junkies fascinated.

CARLA MARINUCCI: It is a huge plum in the presidential election of 2012. If president Obama loses
the governor's race here and the US Senate race, his job in 2012 for re-election is much, much
harder. So, huge stakes for the Democrats here.

LISA MILLAR: In a sign of how critical this has become, president Obama has launched his own rescue
mission, appearing at rallies and fundraisers in a state he could previously have ignored.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: We have to have Barbara back in the Senate. We have to have her back in
the Senate.

LISA MILLAR: But Republicans say she's already spent too much time there.

JOHN MCCAIN, REPUBLICAN SENATOR: Barbara Boxer is the most bitterly partisan, most anti-defence
senator in the United States Senate today. I know that because I've had the unpleasant experience
of having to serve with her.

LISA MILLAR: We caught up with the Republican hopeful in one of the state's most disadvantaged
regions.

Latino mayors like the Fiorina rags-to-riches story and they're here to endorse her.

What does it say about the state of politics in America that Republicans are making such a good
showing in a state like California?

CARLY FIORINA, SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, I actually think that when you look at what's going on
in California, what you see are certainly many Republicans excited about this election, but what
you also see are swing voters who are stepping forward and saying, "We have a choice to make."

The people standing behind me are swing voters, they're people who say, "You know what? I don't
vote a party slate. I don't owe a party anything."

LISA MILLAR: This area typifies the challenge facing Barack Obama. We're about two and a half hours
south-east of San Francisco. It's a primarily agricultural area and the unemployment rate is 40 per
cent, and the people here say that hasn't changed over the last two years, so why should they stay
loyal to the Democrats?

Just days before Halloween and the families here are living their own horror story. As well as
record unemployment, this area has had one of the highest foreclosure rates and their bitterness
towards Barack Obama is acute.

VOX POP: It's gonna show what's happening with him. There was a lot of votes that probably
shouldn't have been counted with that. He just had a lot of followers that didn't even know what
they were votin' for.

VOX POP II: A lot of people are worried about jobs and getting 'em and keeping employed. A lot of
people have lost their jobs and careers and are restarting new ones. So it's a big deal.

VOX POP III: I am probably not gonna vote.

LISA MILLAR: Why?

VOX POP III: Probably because I just don't feel like my - you know, whoever gets elected is gonna
do much, just because in the past it just doesn't feel like anything has changed.

LISA MILLAR: It's that kind of discontent that's made this campaign an uphill battle for the
Democrats from the beginning. Losses are inevitable. On election eve, the only question that
remains is: how many?

Lisa Millar, Lateline.