Democrats plan to press for a minimum wage increase and"tough, smart"national security in their final push to wrest power from the Republicans in the November elections.

House and Senate Democrats will hold a joint meeting on Thursday to discuss events planned for the 100 days leading up to midterm congressional elections and lay out their party agenda, called"A New Direction for America."

It's a compilation of positions the party has staked out over the past few months on income, national security, energy, education, health care and retirement accounts.

"We're going across the country to make our case,"Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said."We're going to reject the divisive politics of the last six years, and unite America behind an agenda that works for all."

His counterpart in the House, Nancy Pelosi of California, said Democrats offer change."Americans know the country is going in the wrong direction,"she said.

Republicans control Congress but the Iraq war, inflated gas prices and a soaring federal deficit have soured the political environment for the GOP. Polls show the public favors a Democratic takeover, and Democrats hope to make their closing pitches in a series of campaign events focused on issues including college affordability and Medicare prescription drugs.

Danny Diaz, a Republican National Committee spokesman, said:"It is both ironic and amusing that Democrats believe they are making a final argument to the American people, while being incapable of deciding how much to raise taxes on working families or how quickly to retreat from Iraq."

On Saturday, exactly 100 days before the Nov. 7 election, the Democratic National Committee will reach out to voters through more than 800 picnics, pig roasts, phone banks and neighborhood canvasses.

In early August, House and Senate Democrats plan to hold at least 200 town hall meetings, press conferences and speeches in states and congressional districts. Larger events also will be staged in some of the most competitive states. In New Jersey, for instance, Reid will join Sen. Bob Menendez, who is in a tight race, to outline port security problems and solutions.

Democrats also will press for a minimum wage raise on Labor Day and hold an event about Hurricane Katrina recovery in Louisiana in late August, a year after the deadly storm.

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