Obviously, the big political story about the midterm elections today has been the huge Republican advantage in Gallup’s generic ballot poll. If this is right and holds true come November, everything I have been saying about the midterms will have been very badly wrong. If Republicans won the midterm vote by ten points or more, they would sweep into power and have a comfortable majority in House. A wave that large could then take enough Senate seats to win the majority in the other chamber. There are just a few problems with this picture, and these are the same problems that have made such predictions of a Republican comeback so easy to mock for the last year.
First, where did this huge advantage come from all of a sudden? As Gallup’s own graph shows, the parties were tied a month ago. Unless we are to believe that this ridiculous mosque controversy has thrown the election to the Republicans, nothing has happened that explains this dramatic shift in voting preferences in the last few weeks. Second, the Republicans’ candidates currently don’t have the money they need to widen the field enough to make this happen. Even if there is a major opportunity to take power, slipshod Republican organization and fundraising have squandered much of it. Third, there aren’t really enough districts that Republicans can plausibly win to get the majority. To make up for the likely losses in Louisiana, Delaware and Illinois, they will need to win a total of 43 seats elsewhere, and it is genuinely difficult to see where these seats come from. Yes, there are 80 Democratic incumbents in House districts that voted for Bush in ’04, but the story here is that most of the voters in most of these districts learned their lesson from ’04 and stopped voting for Republicans, and not enough of them have changed their minds to undo all of the political damage Bush and his allies did to the GOP. Republican failure is too recent and too glaring, and the GOP leadership has done far too little to show that it has learned anything from that failure.
Despite high unemployment, weak growth and a fairly dismal summer, Obama’s approval according to Gallup is 45% and it is still 46% in the RCP average, and it has never gone below 45%. Finally, there is intense dissatisfaction with the administration and the Democratic majorities in the country, but I doubt that it is concentrated as much in the swing districts where control of the House will be decided. There will be many districts in which Democratic nominees get stomped by huge margins, but these are going to be districts that Republicans already held or were almost certain to get back after ’08.