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Biden brushes off talk of big Dem losses in fall

Mark S. Smith

Vice President Joe Biden has a warning for the pundits: Democrats are going to shock everybody with how well they do in the November election.

And he's paraphrasing Mark Twain in saying reports of the Democrats' demise "are premature."

"We're going to win the House and we're going to win the Senate," Biden told ABC's "This Week" in an interview that aired Sunday. "I don't think the losses are going to be bad at all. ... We're going to be in great shape."

While Democratic lawmakers in charge of the party's election efforts joined the vice president in predicting that Congress will remain in their control, their GOP counterparts pointed to voter unease with one-party government as they forecast a good showing for Republican candidates.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Republicans would have a net gain of slightly more than 40 House seats, just enough to take back control. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who chairs the party's Senate campaign committee, said it was anyone's guess which party will be in the majority after fall elections.

Biden's cheery prediction was in stark contrast to last weekend's talk show comment by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs that enough House seats are "in play" that Republicans could gain control of the House.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other House Democrats were angered by Gibbs' remark; Gibbs later said he thinks Democrats will retain their House majority.

"I think we're going to shock the heck out of everybody," Biden said.

Predictions that the GOP will rout the party in power, he said, rely on polls taken pretty early in the campaign season, before voters start focusing on the Republican candidates who will be on the ballot.

"This is July," Biden said. "The most vulnerable time any public official finds himself in is when they have no opponent."

Polls for both President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats have shown declining support through the spring and early summer as the economic recovery has sputtered, BP's oil well has gushed in the Gulf of Mexico and U.S. casualties in Afghanistan have kept rising.

Republicans contend voters are furious about Obama's health care and stimulus plans among the examples of what they say is a federal government run amok.

"These are gigantic packages to deal with a gigantic problem we inherited," Biden said.

He blamed most of the voter angst seen in the polls on the still struggling economy and widespread misunderstanding of big administration initiatives.

"I don't think they know the detail of what's going on," he said.

The vice president predicted that as voters start to understand those details and begin considering the alternative policies that GOP candidates are offering, they'll start to come around.

Republicans, he said, "are about repeal and repeat — repeal what we're doing and go back" to policies of the past decade that have been tried and found wanting.

The Associated Press