The State of the Race

THE STATE OF THE RACE….The media/blog theme of the morning seems to be a barely concealed panic over the shrinking Democratic lead in various generic congressional polls. This is crazy. When you have a lead of 15 points or more, there’s only one direction to go. Of course the Democratic lead is shrinking.

A lot of the Dem lead in September and October polling was, I think, an expression of a vast, pent-up frustration with the Republican Party. But as election day nears, and advertising ramps up, and the reality of pulling the lever becomes more concrete, people tend to put away their frustration and get back to work, voting for whoever they usually vote for. Not all of them, but enough to make the political landscape look a little more normal.

In other words, there’s really nothing unexpected here, and I’m surprised that people with decades of experience in politics are nervous about this. As near as I can tell, Dems are going into Tuesday with a lead in the generic polls of 5-10%, which is huge, and with pretty good prospects in upwards of 40 congressional districts. The Senate races look about the way you’d expect, with Republicans gaining ground or holding on in red states (Montana, Tennessee, Arizona) and Democrats gaining ground or holding on in blue states (New Jersey, Maryland). Missouri and Virginia continue to be wild cards.

For what it’s worth, I think Democratic performance in close Senate races is the key variable to watch. In 2004 there were five Senate races decided by a swing of a percentage point or less, and Republicans won four of the five. If Republicans show the same prowess this year, Dems will only pick up a couple of seats. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: On the other hand, maybe the race isn’t tightening at all. Fox shows Dems ahead by 13 points (up from 11 a week ago) and CNN has them ahead by 20 points (up from 11).

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