I leave the precise parsing of the poll data to Sean Trende, Nate Silver, Henry Olsen, and other numerologist/astrologists, and go by my gut feel, which is usually though not always right. As the 2012 election approached I had a nagging feeling that Obama was going to pull it out, or that if Romney did indeed win it would be by the narrowest of margins, and not the landslide some (including me at one early point) thought he might.
So I think Republicans are going to take the Senate going away, and will not only win all or nearly all of the currently close races, but will sneak up and take one or two unexpected ones, such as New Mexico (another dull Udall on the ballot), or even Minnesota or Illinois.
I’ll just go with macro data here: back in 1986, when the economy was booming, with incomes for all groups rising, with the “right track” poll numbers strongly positive, and Reagan’s personal approval rating around 65 percent (the Iran-Contra scandal didn’t break until just after the 1986 mid-term), and Republicans got crushed in the Senate, losing eight seats—seven of them incumbents. To be sure, some of those were weak first term GOP senators, but certainly some of the Democrat incumbents today (Begich? Hagan?) fit that bill.
But another factor is that the Democrats skillfully made the 1986 election about local and not national issues. It was out of that election that Tip O’Neill made his famous pronouncement that “all politics is local.” This year Democrats are having a hard time executing that maneuver, and while the GOP campaign could be stronger than it is, it is fairly good at attaching a national profile to the races.
It’s not just that Republican voters are more motivated this year. There’s a decent amount of data that they simply pay more attention to things. Pew’s most recent survey of “What Do Americans Know?” finds a decidedly partisan tilt: Republicans are simply better informed. Here’s the table from the survey, which Pew calls “modest,” but there’s a clear pattern here, and do you think the media would call this difference “modest” if it swung the other way?
Want another indication that Republican and Republican-leaning independents are more high information people? Check out this story from the Washington Post: Republicans Advertise on ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ Democrats Buy Ads on ‘Big Brother.” ‘Nuf said.
But then there’s this from Jim Geraghty’s Morning Briefing on NRO about the ignorance of Oregon’s liberal electorate:
[A] poll found that voters in general aren’t paying much attention to this election.
66 percent of respondents couldn’t name the Republican candidate for Governor, Dennis Richardson. And 59 percent couldn’t name the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Monica Wehby.
Governor John Kitzhaber did a little better; 62 percent could name him as the Democratic candidate for Governor, but 38 percent couldn’t. Senator Merkley was recognized by 46 percent as his party’s candidate.
As I mentioned Friday, this is an example of “Set It and Forget It Leftism.” Dear Oregonians, I get it. Your state is gorgeous. If I had one of the world’s biggest bookstores, huge farmers’ markets, endless chefs experimenting with all kinds of local produce and seafood, an exploding menagerie of breweries, wineries, distilleries, and seemingly limitless mountains and rivers to explore, I might not be that interested in politics, either. But come on. Check in every once in a while.
Actually, Oregon, don’t check in until the morning after the election. I’ll bet some mellows at Voodoo Donuts will be harshed.