Party trend usually indicates itself in the 10 days before an election when voters who do not typically follow politics closely tune in and decide for whom to vote. Until this window, they usually describe themselves to pollsters as "undecided." There will be a huge Republican party trend this year, but it hasn't happened yet.
The huge Republican poll numbers these days do not reflect the last-minute switches typical of less involved voters but rather mirror the disappointment with Barack Obama and with Congress among voters who do follow politics closely that has accumulated over the past year and a half. It is this reappraisal of their political opinions that is occasioning the big swing toward Republicans in the 2010 election.The ranks of these disaffected voters who are now turning against Obama and the Democrats will soon be joined by the less-involved voters who will come around in the week or 10 days before the election.
From the perception of the pollster, party trend is a bit like a curveball thrown by a pitcher to a batter. The election statistics remain fairly static for weeks or even months with little change as the race unfolds through September and early through mid October. Like a fastball that comes in straight and true.
Then, suddenly, as the election nears, the vote swings wildly to one side or the other, akin to a curveball that breaks as it approaches the batter -- usually too late for him to make an adjustment. Suddenly, the tied races show up as decisive victories for the side that benefits from party trend. And the unwinnable races come into play.
2010 is a year like no other in the magnitude of the partisan shift going on. It dwarfs 1994 and even 1974 in its order of magnitude. But we haven't yet seen the full impact of the last-minute party shift that will take place. Plenty of voters who are now undecided are yet to be heard from, and when they are, they will impact the results decisively.
In which direction? Most likely they will transform a massive Republican win into an even more massive victory. The uninvolved voters who will decide late in the process are likely to break the same way the rest of the country is breaking: toward the Republicans. Surveys suggest that they share the disenchantment of the participating voters with the economy and Obama's performance. They have just not focused on the coming election.
Democrats hope that the less involved voters are also less educated and more likely to be the young or minority voters on whom their party depends. But the lack of enthusiasm among Democrats for Obama indicates that these voters are likely to decide by staying home. In the most recent Fox News/Opinion Dynamics study, 54 percent of Republicans said they were "very enthusiastic" about voting in the 2010 elections, while only 28 percent of Democrats felt the same way.
So the net result is that for those who anticipate a major Republican win in 2010, you ain't seen nothin' yet!