Republicans have been in a better mood in these waning days of the 109th Congress. They think there is a much better chance they will continue in power after the November elections. However, if polling is any indication Republicans remain in deep trouble.
Of the Republican Senators up for re-election who are in trouble, Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, Conrad Burns of Montana, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, George F. Allen of Virginia and James Talent of Missouri, only Talent appears to be clearly ahead. The Zogby tracking has Allen several points behind while the Rasmussen poll has him slightly ahead. While Santorum has gained ground in recent weeks he is still behind.
In the races in which Republicans are supposed to have a chance at wining over a Democrat, in Maryland, Washington, Minnesota, New Jersey and Michigan, all Democrats are polling ahead. Pollsters differ as to the margin, but none is predicting that a Republican will win in any place other than New Jersey. Even there one pollster has the race tied, the other has the GOP candidate, State Senator Thomas Kean, Jr. running behind. There are also rumors that the Democrats at the last moment may dump their appointed incumbent in New Jersey, Senator Robert Menendez, in favor of long-time Congressman Robert E. Andrews, as they did when Senator Toricelli got into deep trouble. At the last moment they persuaded Senator Frank R. Lautenberg to come out of retirement and he handily defeated the Republican candidate. Menendez is under somewhat of a cloud with federal prosecutors breathing down his neck. Yet, Democrats appear willing to stick by him. But who knows what might lie around the corner. Whereas Kean had been running ahead all summer, he has now lost support, by all indicators.
So I continue of the view that if there were a slight Democratic trend by election day all of the vulnerable Republicans may defeated, and none of the challengers is likely to win either.
In the House it is fairly easy to see how Democrats pick up at least 12 of the 15 seats they need to take control. Getting the final three may prove difficult but by no means impossible.
The President's numbers have gone up to the mid 40s again. While that is certainly better news for Republicans than when President George W. Bush was at a 32% approval rating, to be helpful to Republicans Bush needs to be over 50%. It is possible for that to happen but not likely. We shall see.