Good News and Bad News for Republicans

First, the good news:

A deeply unpopular Republican Party is nonetheless gaining strength heading into the midterms, as the American public’s frustration with Mr. Obama has manifested itself in low ratings for his handling of foreign policy and terrorism.

The generic ballot question, which measures national sentiment for the House of Representatives vote, shows a notable swing of voters toward the Republican Party and away from Democrats. Voters’ dissatisfaction with their own representatives has hit a high as nearly two-thirds say they are ready to throw their own representatives out of office.

Republican candidates are further buoyed by the fact that voters trust their party over the Democrats to better handle some issues voters consider to be the most important. The economy ranks at the top of that list followed by health care, terrorism and immigration. The Republican Party easily tops the Democratic Party in handling the economy, terrorism and foreign policy while voters are about evenly divided between the two parties on immigration. Democrats do hold a five-point advantage on health care, and many Republican candidates have shied away from making the president’s signature health care law a campaign issue.

And now, the bad news:

Democrats are now (very slightly) favored to hold the Senate majority on Nov. 4, according to Election Lab, The Post’s statistical model of the 2014 midterm elections.

Election Lab puts Democrats’ chances of retaining their majority at 51 percent — a huge change from even a few months ago, when the model predicted that Republicans had a better than 80 percent chance of winning the six seats they need to take control. (Worth noting: When the model showed Republicans as overwhelming favorites, our model builders — led by George Washington University’s John Sides — warned that the model could and would change as more actual polling — as opposed to historical projections — played a larger and larger role in the calculations. And, in Republicans’ defense, no one I talked to ever thought they had an 80 percent chance of winning the majority.)

[. . .]

Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model now has Republican chances of winning the Senate at 55 percent, down from 64 percent 12 days ago. “The two states with the largest shifts have been Colorado and North Carolina — in both cases, the movement has been in Democrats’ direction,” Silver writes. “That accounts for most of the difference in the forecast.”

It’s important to note that these models change daily as new polling is released and factored in.  So, tomorrow it’s possible that Election Lab will show Republicans with a very narrow edge in the battle for the Senate. What you should take away from the models then is a) all three have moved toward Democrats of late and b) all three show the battle for the Senate majority to be the truest of tossups at the moment.

If I were a Republican dictator, I would order my troops to ignore the good news, focus on the bad news, and work to address Republican vulnerabilities in the fight for control of the Senate. I certainly wouldn’t take winning the Senate for granted any longer–if ever I did. We all saw what happened during the 2012 presidential election; Team Romney and many other Republicans/conservatives thought that victory over Barack Obama was assured, the polls and empirical evidence notwithstanding. When the votes ultimately came in, Republicans were left in shock.

Assuming that the GOP is not eager to repeat the dreadful experience of Election Day, 2012, Republicans will pay attention to, and take seriously ominous news. Of course, just because the news is ominous, does not mean that it is accurate. But in the last election cycle, Republicans tried their best to ignore less-than-positive polling signs. If they make the same mistake in this election cycle, they may very well be disappointed anew.