We come at last to the home stretch, and that means it’s time to consider again what the polls mean, what they can tell us, and what they can’t. The short answer is that we still do not know what is going to happen – but we still have a good deal of evidence to work with, and most of it suggests that Republicans have a strong chance to pick up anywhere from 8 to 10 Democrat-held Senate seats, but are still in serious danger of losing one seats of their own and some danger of losing a second.
I last looked at the Senate races on October 22. As always, my method – explained at the outset – is to look specifically at the question of, assuming the accuracy of the RCP poll averages, what percentage of the remaining undecided voters would need to break in the GOP’s direction to win? My underlying optimistic assumption is that the national environment should favor Republicans in winning more than half of those voters in most states. The news, for the most part, continues to be consistent with that assumption, but only the election itself will prove or disprove it.
Trust, But Verify
Before we get to the numbers, a few observations on the return of some of the perennial polling debates. First, Sean Trende – whose work I’ve relied on a good deal in developing his original thesis about the gravitational pull of Obama’s low approval ratings and the GOP edge in the generic ballot, and how those factors would be reflected in the movement of late-breaking undecideds – lays out the two most likely paths to the Senate endgame: that the remaining large numbers of undecideds will mostly break heavily to the GOP, and that they will mostly stay home. Obviously, if the polls are otherwise correct, both results will lead to a good night for Republicans, but the first scenario will lead to a much better one, probably a wave big enough to save Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Pat RobertsSenate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard93% and tip the North Carolina and New Hampshire races to the GOP.
Then we have Nate Cohn, who at this point in 2012 was reassuring us that “Friendly Reminder: The Polls …read more