Democrat thumping a coming?

Michael Barone:

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... the Republicans, as George W. Bush said, took "a thumping" in 2006. And most signs suggest Democrats will take a thumping this year too.

To see why, take a look at the generic ballot question -- which party's candidate will you vote for in elections to the House? The current realclearpolitics.com average shows Republicans ahead by 45 to 41 percent. Ten of this month's 15 opinion polls asking the question had Republicans ahead; Democrats led in four (twice by 1 percent), and one poll showed a tie.

Keep in mind that the generic ballot question historically has tended to underpredict Republican performance in off-year elections. Gallup has been asking the question since 1950 and has shown Republicans leading only in two cycles, 1994 and 2002, and then by less than the 7 and 5 points by which they won the popular vote for the House in those years.

So the Republicans' current lead in the generic ballot question suggests they may be on the brink of doing better than in any election since 1946, when they won a 245-188 margin in the House -- larger than any they've held ever since.

Another metric is daunting for Democrats. Polls in House races almost always show incumbents ahead of challengers, because incumbent members of Congress are usually much better known than their opponents. An incumbent running below 50 percent is considered potentially in trouble; an incumbent running behind a challenger is considered in deep doo-doo.

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In 1994, I wrote an article in U.S. News & World Report arguing that there was a serious chance that Republicans could capture the 40 seats that they needed then, as now, for a majority in the House. It was the first mainstream media piece suggesting that, and it appeared on newsstands on July 11.

I cited as evidence five polls showing incumbent Democratic congressmen trailing Republican challengers. None of those Democrats had scandal problems; all five lost in November.

Today a lot more Democratic incumbents seem to be trailing Republican challengers in polls. Jim Geraghty of National Review Online has compiled a list of 13 Democratic incumbents trailing in polls released over the past seven weeks.

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As Geraghty notes, we haven't seen polls released by many other Democrats on Republican target lists. Most are conducting polls; many have reason to release favorable results if they're available. This looks like a case where the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

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There is a good reason things are looking so grim for Democrats. They passed a rationed health care bill against the will of the people who made it clear they did not want it. They passed a massive "stimulus" bill that has not stimulated. In the House they passed a cap and trade bill the people do not want. Their financial "reform" bill does not reform the institutions responsible for the financial debacle.

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