Is It Possible That The GOP Could Hold Onto The House?

Short Answer To The Question phrased in the title: Yes, but it’s unlikely.

Long Answer: The available polling data seems to show that the GOP is going to lose the House and almost all the political analysts out there agree with that assessment. However, there is a small glimmer of hope for the GOP.

Right at the tail end of the campaign, multiple generic ballot polls have shown a movement towards the GOP. Here’s the spin on that development from the GOP:

“The momentum continues with a fourth poll in recent days showing Republicans gaining ground on Democrats in the closing days of the election. James Carville and Stan Greenberg’s Democracy Corps poll (November 2-5) confirms the findings of three other polls released in the last two days that show Republicans gaining ground in their competitive district survey.

GENERIC BALLOT. Republicans have cut the margin from down 11 (41-52) last week to down only four (45-49) this morning.

PARTY IMAGE. Democracy Corps shows that Republicans have a better image rating than Democrats for the first time since early September. From their last poll, Republicans’ favorable/unfavorable ratio had improved a net-5 points while Democrats dropped a net-4 points.

HANDLING OF ISSUES. A big reason for Republican gains is that trust on key issues has increased over the past few weeks. Built on recent good economic news, Republicans handling on the economy has improved a net-9 points from a week ago. Republicans have also seen significant gains on handling of taxes (+7), Iraq (+7) and national security (+4).

GOP CAMPAIGNS MAKING IMPACT. Another significant reason for Republican gains can be found in the GOP’s 72-hour get out the vote program which is now in full swing. This poll showed that Republicans have made a greater impact than Democrats with TV ads (+6), mailings (+6), and phone calls (+6).

OTHER INDICATORS IMPROVE.

* Direction of the nation, otherwise known as “right track / wrong track”, improved a net-6 points from their previous poll.

* The President’s job approval has increased a net-5 points and Congressional Job Approval increased a net-12 points from their October 25-29 survey.”

Now, you may be thinking, “Well gee, if the generic ballots show the GOP gaining ground, doesn’t that mean that the GOP is going to overperform?”

The answer to that is not necessarily. For one thing, the generic ballot numbers often don’t track well with election results. In other words, a five point movement one way or the other in the generic ballot numbers doesn’t necessarily mean anything in any particular race. You can see that in the Senate polls where, for example, Republicans like Lincoln Chafee and Conrad Burns have closed right at the tail end of their campaigns while Democrats like James Webb and McCaskill have surged during the same time period.

So, even if there has been some sort of movement towards the GOP because of John Kerry’s comments about the troops, Saddam being sent to the gallows, Republicans coming home at the last minute, or other factors, it’s not a “rising tide lifts all boats,” sort of thing.

However, because the House races are polled much less often than the Senate, it’s possible that a “mini-wave” towards many of the GOP candidates could have been overlooked.

Now, do I think there has been a “mini-wave” towards the GOP over the last few days. My gut instinct says, “no,” but I don’t think you can completely discount the possibility. After all, if such a “mini-wave” were to happen, you would see the sort of movement in the generic balloting numbers that does appear to have happened.

So, if all these predictions turn out to be wrong and the GOP holds on the House by a nose — which again, I don’t think is going to happen — that, along with the GOP’s superb Get Out The Vote effort, will be the explanation for it.

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