The Campaign Spot

A Cause for Cautious Optimism about the GOP’s Midterm Prospects

Over at Hot Air, Guy Benson is cheerier about the GOP’s midterm prospects.

The CNN poll of Alaska out this morning, putting Republican Dan Sullivan up 6 among likely voters (and hitting 50 percent!) is a good sign. Despite all the discussion about the southern-state races, Mark Begich might be the most vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbent. He’s trailed in every poll since the beginning of August. Polling in Alaska is allegedly more difficult than in other states, but you figure if Begich was leading, at least one of the past five polls would show him with more than 44 percent. One wrinkle to keep an eye on: “The Begich ground game — which the senator and his campaign detailed for the first time to The Washington Post — is on a scale far beyond anything that has been tried here before.”

In Arkansas, Mark Pryor has led only two of the last 15 polls. As in Alaska, Democrats are pulling out all the stops (and trying some new ones) in their get-out-the-vote effort here. While you can’t quite write off Pryor, an incumbent polling in the mid-to-low 40s — and sometimes high 30s! — in early October is in deep trouble.

In Georgia’s Senate race, David Purdue continues to enjoy a consistent, small lead. Peach State Republicans probably ought to take the close polls earlier this year as a warning shot — thanks to changing demographics, Georgia is no longer an ironclad, take-it-to-the-bank red state.

The two polls in Kansas showing GOP incumbent senator Pat Roberts ahead are the best news for the GOP in a long time. This may reflect the “all hands on deck” campaign effort from Republicans, including everyone from Jeb Bush to Ted Cruz to Sarah Palin to Bob Dole — or simply political reality catching up to so-called “independent” Greg Orman, who refuses to say which party he’ll caucus with if elected. Voters may claim to love “independence,” but they may not be so enamored of a candidate who refuses to say where he stands or what he believes is best for the state.

Keep in mind — if the GOP keeps Kansas, sweeps the easy three (Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia) and wins Alaska and Arkansas, they will have 50 Senate seats. So they’ll need one more to win control of the Senate.

Perhaps most intriguingly, incumbent Democrat Mark Udall has led only one of the past five polls in Colorado. Only one of those polls was conducted in October, though, a Fox News poll putting Republican Cory Gardner up by 6 points.

The Suffolk poll in North Carolina is one of the best for Thom Tillis in a long while. Forget the headlines saying the poll has Hagan ahead by 2; the raw response totals are 227 responses for incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan, 225 for Tillis. Note that of the 27 who answered “undecided,” 2 said they were leaning to Tillis, 7 for Hagan. Tillis’s inability to overtake Hagan, in a state where Obama is so unpopular, represents one of the great frustrations for Republicans this cycle. This might be closing up, but if Tillis wins on Election Day, it doesn’t look like it will be by many percentage points.

You’re seeing more confidence among Republicans as they discuss Joni Ernst in Iowa . . . Chris Matthews declared after her debate, “She’s no lightweight” and David Axelrod said, “She’s got momentum, she’s got charisma.”

Overall, the “voter engagement” measurement appears to favor Republicans . . . 

Usually, Republicans vote at higher rates than Democrats, and this is evident in higher scores for Republicans than for Democrats on the voter engagement questions, including this year. In fact, the Republican advantages on each of the three turnout measures at this point approach what Gallup measured in the strong GOP year of 2010 rather than in other midterm election years. As a result, even if overall turnout is depressed compared with prior years, Republicans appear poised to turn out in greater numbers than Democrats . . . 

But keep in mind that Gallup is polling nationally, and the highest-stakes fights of 2014 are in those key Senate races (and maybe some of those governor’s races).

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