Washington, Sep 15 : American public sentiment is moving in Republicans' direction despite Democrats having the money and reach to add substantially to their House majority in November, according to a poll that suggests the GOP could limit those gains.
An Associated Press-GfK poll conducted between September 5-10 found Republicans trailing Democrats by just five percentage points when likely voters were asked which party they want to control Congress next year.
That is a substantial improvement from the double-digit disadvantage Republicans were suffering in most public polls so far this year, although the boost could prove fleeting, FOX News reported.
Holding a large cash advantage over the GOP, Democrats have solid chances to take over seats from Arizona to New York because of more than two-dozen Republican retirements. In Idaho, Missouri, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, the GOP is scrambling to defend incumbents once considered safe for re-election.
More than 20 Republican seats are in serious jeopardy compared with only six to eight Democrats at real risk. As a result, Democrats have the opportunity to add as many as 10 votes to their majority, possibly more if Democratic groundswell develops.
"We're confident we'll break the historical curse where the party that benefited from a wave election from one cycle loses seats in the following cycle," said Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who heads the Democrats' House campaign committee.
All 435 House seats - including one vacancy - are up for grabs. Democrats, with a 235-199 majority, are focusing their money and attention on 75 seats, two-thirds of them in Republican hands, he said.
For Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who leads his party's House campaign committee, "The biggest single challenge we face is just the size of the battlefield."
Following a GOP loss of 30 seats in the 2006 elections, "We've got a lot of rebuilding to do at the same time we're having to compete," Cole said. By contrast, he said, Democrats are "at the top of their game."
Republican strategists believe the nomination of John McCain, who has distanced himself from Bush, and his selection of running mate Sarah Palin, a darling of the party base, plus national focus on high gasoline prices, have begun to help Republicans claw their way back.