If CBS News and the New York Times are to be believed, Republicans are cruising towards an Election Night victory. The latest CBS/NYT poll shows Republicans leading by seven points in the generic ballot. Considering that the GOP lost the total Congressional vote by a point in 2012 and still retained their majority by a reasonable margin, a seven-point lead indicates a measurable bump in seats for Republicans.
When CBS/NYT polled the Senate races they found Republicans leading by at least four points in five seats currently held by Democrats. Altogether, the GOP led in eight races with Democratic controlled seats. Should their numbers hold up on Election Day, Republicans would have 53 Senate seats in the next Congress.
The CBS/NYT polls are not alone in their predictions of a GOP wave. The generic ballot poll conducted for Fox News also shows Republicans leading by seven points. Quinnipiac found Republican Cory Gardner leading Democratic incumbent Mark Udall in Colorado by eight points and Republican Joni Ernst leading her Democratic opponent Bruce Braley by six points in Iowa. If Gardner and Ernst manage to win by half those margins it will be a very good evening for Republicans.
Despite these polls, Democrats believe they have a chance to keep their Senate majority. A Republican pollster shows Kay Hagan cruising to re-election with a 10-point lead in North Carolina. Two polls in Georgia show Democrat Michelle Nunn leading Republican David Perdue. A Nunn win would virtually end any chance the GOP has of retiring Harry Reid as majority leader.
Rasmussen Reports, once every Republican’s favorite pollster, has been particularly bullish on Democratic chances this election season. Rasmussen gives Democrats good news from the top down. President Obama is staying over 45% and occasionally approaches 50% job approval among likely voters while Democrats have a three-point lead in the generic ballot. According to Rasmussen, Republicans trail by one point in Arkansas (he is the only pollster showing Democrats with a lead) and trail by six in North Carolina. The GOP’s chances of winning a majority are a coin toss at best according to his polls.
The polling situation is similar to 2012 with the roles reversed. According to the 2012 polls, Mitt Romney’s best-case scenario was a split decision while Obama had the potential for a comfortable victory. Ultimately, the pollsters who favored Obama were correct because they accurately predicted the very favorable Democratic electorate.
This year Republicans have the potential to win as many as 10 seats if everything goes their way while Democrats are hoping to hold the GOP gains to four or five seats as a best case scenario. Should the electorate split the difference the GOP will win a Senate majority.
Elections are ultimately decided by the make-up of the electorate on Election Day. It is the job of the pollsters to tell us ahead of time what the electorate will look like. This year it looks like there will be clear winners and losers in the polling industry no matter what the final results are.