Mitch McConnell looks increasingly safe according to a set of new polls.
Mitch McConnell looks increasingly safe according to a set of new polls.

The long-awaited Republican wave may finally be forming.  A series of new Senate polls from YouGov, a new generic ballot from WashPo and several independent analysts now indicate the GOP is on firm ground to take the Senate and win additional seats in the House.

But don’t just take my word for it.  Consider the words of Stu Rothenburg at Roll Call who writes, “After looking at recent national, state and congressional survey data and comparing this election cycle to previous ones, I am currently expecting a sizable Republican Senate wave.”

Just as important for Republicans are a set of new generic ballot polls among likely voters showing the GOP edging ahead.  Most notably, a GWU/Battleground survey finds the GOP ahead 46%-42% among likely voters.  The latest WashPo generic ballot test shows the GOP ahead of Democrats 47%-44%, fueled by a healthy lead among Independents.  On the issues Republicans have edged ahead on dealing with the budget, economy, taxes and immigration.

YouGov’s Senate findings (Governor and House results forthcoming) are ominous for Democrats.  Republicans hold healthy leads in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia (best pickup opportunities of the cycle).  They also lead narrowly in North Carolina and Michigan.  Republicans hold slim leads in Arkansas and Alaska and are holding their own in Kentucky and Georgia.  Equally as important, the GOP is keeping Iowa and Colorado competitive and staying within striking distance in Minnesota and New Hampshire.

This marks a turnaround from June to August where little changed in the race for the Senate.  While the President’s popularity continued to stay at record lows, Senate Democrats seemed to be holding their own in key races.  But not now.  The widening GOP leads in Arkansas and Alaska suggest voters ares starting to become more receptive to the GOP message.  While North Carolina remains close it is a bit of a surprise Michigan is as well, especially considering how weak of a nominee Land has been for the GOP.

Republicans appear especially strong at the state level with numerous legislative generic ballot questions showing the GOP ahead in states with split legislatures including Iowa and Kentucky.  Republicans hope to add to their margins in Montana and other red leaning states.

None of this is to say a GOP wave for sure is coming.  But the GOP appears sure to pick up at least five Senate seats if recent history is any precedent.  Returning to Rothenburg’s analysis, “In 2006, for example, Democrats won three of the four closest Senate contests, in Missouri, Montana and Virginia. Only Tennessee went Republican, and it wouldn’t have been close if Democrats had not had a strong wind at their backs nationally. In 1986 — like 2006, a second midterm election — all six of the closest Senate contests were won by Democrats, including three (Colorado, California and North Dakota) where the Democrats drew less than 50 percent of the vote.”

In short, midterm history where a President has been unpopular and his party has been defending multiple seats in swing or opposite partisan leaning states has not been kind.  This election does not look much different.  Democrats hopes that disapproval of Congress will benefit them seems foolhardy.

I have written before that while Senate Democrats are usually tied or close to their GOP opponents they are usually mired in the low to mid 40’s.  These incumbents just cannot seem to get above 50%.  In some cases such as Arkansas and Louisiana, polls have shown the pool of undecided voters is overwhelmingly made up of voters who disapprove of Obamacare and the President.  This makes a Democratic incumbent’s job of getting their votes that much harder.

Republicans should not get overly giddy about the new numbers.  Democratic incumbents retain a healthy cash advantage in many races and billionaires such as Tom Steyer and Super PACs are spending heavily on their party’s behalf.  These ads have done damage to GOP nominees across the board.

But, if Republicans are smart and hammer away at the weak economy, the President’s fecklessness on immigration and the coming premium hikes due to Obamacare they may well find they will easily surpass the six seat threshold needed to regain the Senate in 2015,  This would be huge considering the GOP will be defending multiple Senate seats in 2016 that are not friendly to the party.


Addendum: A new CNN/ORC generic ballot survey was released showing the GOP ahead 49%-45% among likely voters on Wednesday.


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