House Republican prospects — the case for pessimism

This poll conducted for National Public Radio by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican pollster Glenn Bolger focused on the 50 House races that are thought to be competitive. The pollsters talked to 1,000 likely voters in these districts and found that respondents currently favor the Democratic candidate over the Republican by a margin of about 6 percentage points. In 2004, according to NPR, Republicans had the advantage in these districts by a margin of 12 percentage points. That margin produced 40 Republican and 10 Democratic winners. If the Democrats’ alleged margin of half that size were to produce 30 Democratic winners, the Democrats would pick up 20 seats, enough to give them control.

But has there really been a swing of 18 percentage points in these districts? Possibly. Some polls reflect roughly that amount of swing in President Bush’s approval numbers. In this poll (which again was confined to 50 districts) 42 percent of respondents approved of Bush’s performance, while 55 percent disapproved.

JOHN adds: Eighteen points is an awfully big swing. It seems odd to me that in the 50 House races described as competitive, those districts went Republican in 2004 by an average of 12 points. If that is really true, I like the Republicans’ chances.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not worried about the House; I am. I’m worried about the Senate too. One more point, which could be described as either or optimistic or pessimistic, depending on how you look at it. I live in a solidly Republican district. Yet I have it on excellent authority that the Democrats now lead the generic preference poll here. This doesn’t mean that my Congressman, John Kline, is in trouble. On the contrary, as Scott noted recently, the Democrats seem to have given up on the race, and if they haven’t, they should. You could construe this either of two ways: optimistically, maybe a lot of poll respondents are using the opportunity of a generic poll to express general dissatisfaction, without having any intention of voting against their own Republican congressman. Or, pessimistically, the anti-Republican tide is so deep that the only safe Republicans are great representatives like Kline who have inept opponents.

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