Democrats hail high turnout while GOP exudes confidence on House

Democrats on Tuesday insisted high Election Day turnout was helping their party, while Republicans expressed confidence they would win back a House majority.

“The reports that we're getting back are encouraging,” said Democratic National Committee (DNC) spokesman Hari Sevugan.

He said Democrats are seeing strong turnout in the suburbs of Philadelphia, central Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. More than a dozen House seats in the two states are in play, as are races for the Senate and governor.

“The latest round of early vote numbers show very high turnout in key constituencies and key geographic locations for us,” Sevugan said.

But Republican officials dismissed early reports of high turnout as unreliable.

“Any actual information you can get is information you want,” said Republican National Committee (RNC) communications director Doug Heye. “But how reliable it is is another question.”

House GOP Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE (Ohio) also voiced confidence after casting his own ballot, saying it was “going to be a big day.”

“I think we have a real opportunity to win the majority, and hopefully my colleagues will elect me Speaker,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE said.

Both sides expressed confidence Tuesday about the way turnout would affect election results, with the GOP claiming it was well-positioned to win back the House and Democrats saying they were leaving no stone unturned to limit their losses.

“Six weeks ago we were facing a situation where Republicans — and most people agreed — where Republicans were going to take the Senate, the House and the majority of the governorships,” Sevugan said.

“We're in a vastly different situation now because people are beginning to tune in, and because of our get-out-the-vote efforts."

Most observers think Republicans will win more than the net gain of 39 seats they need to take the House, but the Senate has long been seen as a tougher slog for the GOP.

Republicans need to pick up 10 seats, and recent polls suggest Democratic incumbents are gaining strength in California and Washington. Republicans probably need to win one of those two seats to take the majority while also winning close races in Nevada, West Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Heye said on-the-ground reports on Tuesday about turnout won't be good indicators of the elections' trend lines.

“Election Days are remarkably slow during the day,” he said. “There's not much we're hearing in terms of this district or that district.”

Voter turnout reports around the country varied. 

Ohio state department officials reported a moderate turnout so far, as did the Miami-Dade Elections Department. 

“It’s really hard to tell right now,” said Marie Bertot of the Miami-Dade Elections Department. “I wouldn’t say slow, I wouldn’t say swamped.”

Cole County Clerk Marvin Register in Missouri predicted voter turnout at 56 percent, 3 percent less than in the 2006 mid-term elections. 

Both national party committees marshaled statistics to make the claim that their party was gaining an edge on the final day of the 2010 campaign cycle.

Republicans point to early voting, which Democrats have promoted heavily, as a positive indicator in 2010. The RNC says it has closed or overtaken the major gap in early voting that Democrats enjoyed in 2006 and 2008, a boon that would only add to the GOP’s traditionally strong efforts to drive turnout on the day of the election.

President Obama has hit the radio waves Monday and Tuesday to boost turnout and early voting. Sevugan said that the DNC saw a late surge in early voting numbers, in addition to early statistics and anecdotal evidence the party was collecting.

Each party is closely monitoring certain indicators to determine how its candidates are performing.

Democrats will look to see how get-out-the-vote efforts look in the West, especially in states like Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado and Washington — each of which has competitive House, Senate or gubernatorial races on the ballot.

Republicans, meanwhile, will have an eye on early returns in certain districts and races. The RNC will be eyeing races in Maine and the contest for Rep. Barney Frank's (D) seat in Massachusetts. GOP committees will also have an eye on competitive races in Virginia and North Carolina for signs of success.

“What we've seen is that the map just has not shrunk for us,” Heye said. “Even in good years, the map shrinks over time. That's not the case this year."

Kevin Cullum and Kwaku Duncan contributed to this report.

This story was posted at 1:06 p.m. and updated at 1:43 p.m.