Abandon all hope? Not quite yet

ABANDON ALL HOPE? NOT QUITE YET…. The question isn’t whether Democrats are in for a beating in the midterm elections; the question is how severe it will be. But before a sense of dread and gloom overcomes the party and its supporters, it’s worth pausing to take note of at least some evidence that suggests the results might not be that bad.

The Washington Post reports this morning, for example, “In an election year when good news has been scarce for Democrats, anxious party strategists are heartened by at least one development: In states that have started voting, early indications are that Democratic turnout could be stronger than expected.” McClatchy reported overnight that “in a handful of states — Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — the Democrats now have at least a fighting chance to hold Senate seats that looked lost in September. If they succeed, they greatly increase their odds of retaining control of the Senate, even as they still appear likely to lose control of the House of Representatives.”

And then there’s the newly-published Newsweek poll.

Despite doom-saying about Democrats’ chances in the midterms, the latest NEWSWEEK Poll shows that they remain in a close race with Republicans 12 days before Election Day, while the president’s approval ratings have climbed sharply. The poll finds that 48 percent of registered voters would be more likely to vote for Democrats, compared with 42 percent who lean Republican (those numbers are similar to those in the last NEWSWEEK Poll, which found Democrats favored 48 percent to 43 percent). […]

While two thirds (69 percent) of self-identified Republican voters say they’ve given a lot or some thought to the election, 62 percent of Democrats say they have. This result indicates that the difference in enthusiasm between Democratic and Republican voters may be less stark than some other polls have suggested.

While several recent polls have shown Dems faring well among registered voters, the more important measurement is with likely voters. Newsweek, though, shows Democrats leading with them, too — 48% to 45%.

The same poll shows President Obama’s approval rating getting a big bump, to 54%, its highest point in a very long while. Congressional Dems’ approval rating is up a bit in this poll, while Newsweek shows the congressional GOP sliding a bit.

There’s good reason for skepticism here. It’s tempting to think polls that tell you what you want to hear must be right, but that’s generally unwise. For much of the year, Newsweek polls have shown a far more favorable Democratic landscape, and no other major pollster is showing trends similar to this one.

That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it means caution would be prudent before Dems get too excited with the results.

That said, this, when coupled with the other recent reports, suggests the election cycle isn’t quite over yet.