On the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of every even-numbered year, the United States goes through the ritual of its mid-term elections.
There is little of the razamataz of a presidential contest, but these elections are fiercely fought with tens of millions of dollars being spent by both parties on attack advertising in the closing days.
Next Tuesday's elections should have little to do with George Bush as voters elect all 435 members of Congress, 33 or 34 of the 100 members of the US Senate as well as members of state legislatures, and state governors. But in practice the mid-terms are all about George this time.
All major polls conducted since 12 October show President Bush's job approval below 40 per cent, worse than President Bill Clinton's prior to the 1994 elections. And an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken between 13 and 16 October produced a shocking approval rating of just 16 percent for the Republican Congress.
US presidential elections occur only every four years and those elections for Congress that do not coincide with presidential races are called mid-term elections - because they occur about midway through a presidential term. In addition 36 governors are elected during mid-term elections as are thousands of politicians running for state legislatures and county offices.
The probability is that the Democrats will win control of the House on 7 November, and still have a fighting chance at the more difficult task of wresting the Senate from the Republicans as well.
The approval ratings for both President Bush and the Republican Congress are extremely poor; all the polls show that voters prefer the Democrats to the Republicans on the deeply unpopular war in Iraq - and also on virtually every other issue of concern.
Only on the infamous war on terrorism are American voters behind President Bush and the coming days will reveal whether an "October surprise", will be engineered by the White House political guru and chief strategist Karl Rove.
What the Democrats fear now is the much-vaunted Republican voter-turnout machine, which brought Bush a narrow re-election victory in 2004. They also worry about the Republicans' fundraising prowess, fearing that their own candidates could find themselves outspent in close races that should be winnable.
According to the political analysists at CQ.com, the Democrats are seriously contesting Republican holds on 72 seats with seven of those races already leaning toward a Democratic takeover and 18 more considered genuine toss-ups - the result of a combination of Republican political weaknesses.
By contrast, only a handful of Democratic seats are seriously at risk. The Republicans must now win 11 of the 18 toss-ups to retain power. The Democrats will need to win just eight of the toss-ups to gain control.Reuse content