WASHINGTON - Call it the campaign with no margin for Republican error, in a nation that is war-weary and eager for change, yet seems wary of the Democratic option.
Even Republicans tacitly concede they will lose seats in both the House and Senate in Nov. 7 elections midway through President Bush's second term. Yet Democrats, long out of power, are loath to predict publicly they will gain the six Senate and 15 House seats they need for control of Congress.
Voters like Jim Meyer are part of the reason one party is scuffling, yet the other not completely confident.
"I think we're in a lot of trouble," said the 59-year-old resident of Greenhills, Ohio, a Bush voter in 2004. His reasons: "Our commitment overseas, using our National Guard as much as we're using it, calling back our troops" to duty.
Still, he sized up the political alternative in less-than-glowing terms. "I think a lot of Democrats come across as crazies."
It's an impression Democrats are determined to negate — and Republicans eager to reinforce — in the 10 weeks from the traditional Labor Day campaign kickoff until Election Day. In all, 33 Senate seats, the entire 435-member House, 36 governorships and hundreds of ballot questions will go before the voters.
Polls show the war in Iraq is unpopular, Bush's public support is lagging, and the GOP-controlled Congress is viewed poorly by the public. In an Associated Press-Ipsos poll in August, 71 percent of those surveyed said the country was moving in the wrong direction.