I think Democrats are going to lose the House, with Republicans quite possibly picking up a lot more seats than they even need for a majority. At the same time I think Democrats will hold onto the Senate and that it may be by a larger margin than people are expecting, with the party perhaps holding onto its seats in places like Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, and West Virginia where the party lucked out because the GOP nominated weak candidates.
That's a reminder that candidates matter- but they matter a lot more in Senate elections where voters really get to know them than in House elections that are much more likely to be determined by the national tide. We've seen time and again in Senate races this year that the better voters get to know the Republican candidates the less they like them. But unfortunately for Democrats I don't know that voters ever get to know the House candidates well enough for that same effect to occur.
I've had 3 reminders of this in the last week:
1) In Colorado voters prefer Republicans on the generic Congressional ballot by a 47-44 margin. At the same time Democrat Michael Bennet is leading the Senate race 46-45. There's a simple explanation for that- Ken Buck is weaker than your average GOP candidate would have been. Independents are generally leaning toward Republicans 39-38. But they prefer Bennet to Buck 48-38. They may be slightly inclined to support a GOP candidate but not that GOP candidate.
2) We saw a similar story last week in Connecticut. Democrats lead the generic Congressional ballot in the state by a slightly scary margin of only 44-42. Independents go toward the GOP by a 43-29 spread and 12% of Democrats are planning to vote Republican while only 8% of Republicans go the other way. But in the US Senate race, where a majority of voters have a negative opinion of Linda McMahon, those trends are all flipped on their heads. Richard Blumenthal earns a tie with independents and gets 15% of Republicans to McMahon's 11% of Democrats. Blumenthal's turned out to be a much weaker candidate than Democrats would have expected 9 months ago but he's going to be fine because he drew an even weaker opponent.
3) On our Nevada poll this weekend we asked just for the heck of it how folks would have voted if the Republican nominee had been Danny Tarkanian. He did 8 point better than Sharron Angle, most notably winning independent voters by 26 points when her advantage with them is only 8. Independents in Nevada want to vote against Harry Reid, but a lot of them consider him to be a lesser evil than Angle. But if Angle was a House candidate would she ever have been exposed to enough scrutiny to make voters realize they didn't like her?
If House candidates got the same level of exposure Senate ones do there are probably some races Democrats would win that they're going to lose...but the simple reality is that they don't and Democrats won't benefit from candidate unforced errors the way they are on the Senate side.