Things have gotten out of hand when it comes to predictions of a Republican victory in the upcoming midterm elections. In recent days, talk of a GOP edge has turned into talk of a GOP blowout. Prognosticators have upgraded the coming political storm from Category 4 to Category 5. Republican control of the House has gone from possible to inevitable.
But Republicans don't believe it, or at least the insiders involved in the midterm effort don't believe it. As they see it, they're in a good position to pick up the 39 seats needed to win control of the House, but polls showing a huge GOP lead are simply wrong. "I'm assuming that Cook and Rothenberg and Rove and the others have got different indications from what we've got," says one member of the House GOP election team. "I don't want to overestimate what's out there."
"I think it's about even," says a strategist involved in the GOP effort. "That is a remarkable place to be, given where we were in the '08 election. But it's about even."
The landslide talk was based on two high-profile polls. One, from Gallup, showed Republicans with an unprecedented 10-point lead in the so-called "generic ballot" question -- whether voters will choose the Democratic or Republican candidate in their congressional election. The other poll, from the Washington Post and ABC News, showed the GOP with a 13-point lead.
There are problems with both polls. First, Gallup's surveys have been pretty uneven this election season. Indeed, Gallup has since released a new poll showing the generic-ballot question dead even, which doesn't exactly inspire confidence in its finding of a 10-point GOP lead.
As for the Post poll, Republican insiders say it (uncharacteristically) skews things toward the GOP. The 13-point margin is among people judged by the Post to be most likely to vote this November. Among all registered voters, Republicans have a thin two-point lead in the same poll.
Which count is more accurate? Republicans usually score higher with likely voters. But the election is still more than seven weeks away. Counting only likely voters at this point "screens out Democratic groups that you know are going to be there at the end," says the GOP consultant. "There are unions and African-Americans who typically get their information late, from leadership or the pulpit."
In other words, those reliable Democrats will become likely voters soon enough. Former Republican Rep. Vin Weber, a veteran of many campaigns, predicts Democrats "are going to have some success in bringing their troops home and rousing their base over the next few weeks," although Weber predicts Republicans will ultimately win control of the House.