The Race for the Senate is Close – And it Probably Always Will Be

Writing about politics and polling in a typical election year can be lead to some conflicting emotions.

On the one hand, if everything seems to be trending the right way then you begin to fear that your base will grow too cocky. Conservative voters may come to wonder why they should waste their time at the polls if their preferred candidate has already got this thing in the bag.

The reverse side of that problem is equally troubling. If you’re too negative, even in an effort to show people how important their vote can be, then you risk giving voters the impression that the election is a lost cause and their vote can’t change that.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, we haven’t had to worry about finding the right tonal balance. This election is close and it likely will be until each and every vote is cast.

In the past few weeks Republicans seemed to have the momentum – Obamacare remains unpopular, the president’s approval ratings were dismal, the administration’s foreign policy was a mess, and the economy wasn’t improving nearly as rapidly as Democrats promised.

If you just follow national polls all of those factors are borne out. The best evidence is the generic ballot test – a simple poll that asks voters whether they would support a hypothetical Republican or Democratic candidate. According to the latest polling information we have Republicans lead by four points in GWU polling, three points in ABC/Washington Post, four points in CNN, seven points in Fox News, and three points in Pew Research. That’s a pretty substantial body of evidence that indicates that a wave could be building for Republicans to win the Senate.

But recently, especially if you look at local polling, Democrats seem to have recaptured the edge. Guy Benson breaks down the latest data for HotAir:

 By all accounts, Kay Hagan in North Carolina should be a sitting duck, but Democrats are spending prodigiously to protect her, and she’s ahead in every recent poll.  In Iowa, the race remains deadlocked, and a deluge of lefty spending is keeping deeply flawed Democratic nominee Bruce Braley very much alive.  In Colorado, Cory Gardner is running a virtually flawless campaign against an incumbent who’s voted with a very unpopular president 99 percent of the time, yet he’s still trailing in most polls by a handful of points.  In New Hampshire, Scott Brown is comprehensively out-working Jeanne Shaheen, who’s clearly hoping to ride this thing out by relying on attack ads, a la Hagan and Udall.  Brown received some welcome polling news this morning (here’s another), but the conventional wisdom continues to hold that this seat remains in the ‘leans Democrat’ column.  And in Michigan, in spite of the occasional positive survey result, Terri Lynn Land lags behind Democrat Gary Peters by a not-insignificant margin in most polling.

That localized polling is beginning to show up in forecaster’s national model. In The Washington Post’s Election Lab, Democrats’ chances of retaining their Senate majority has show up to 51 percent, a huge improvement considering the model once predicted that Republicans had a better than 80 percent chance of winning the Senate.

Likewise, the venerable Nate Silver’s model has Republicans’ chances of winning enough seats to control the Senate falling from 64 percent to 55 percent in just the last two weeks.

Does this bevy of new polling mean that Republicans have peaked too soon, as some prognosticators believe. Or is it that the larger national mood, which clearly favors Democrats, is just now beginning to show up among the ranks of undecided voters, as others suggest.

Regardless of which camp you fall in, one thing is clear: This is going to be a close election and your vote could definitely be the difference between a win and a loss. There’s no excuse for feeling cocky in victory or resigned to defeat.