Election Day could bring historic split: Democrats lose House, keep Senate

He's also in search of something he has lost: the adoration of the American people.
By Karen Tumulty
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 25, 2010; 12:10 AM

The question around Washington today is not whether Nov. 2 will be a difficult day for the Democrats who control Congress, but rather how bad it will be.

Increasingly, it looks like the answer depends on which chamber of Congress you're following.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report now estimates that more than 90 Democratic House seats are potentially in play; on the Republican side of the aisle, it estimates that only nine appear in jeopardy. As a result, most leading forecasters say it is more likely that Republicans will win the 39 House seats they need to take control.

On the Senate side, however, the battle has narrowed to a handful of true nail-biters in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Colorado - all of which are likely to stay close to the end.

It would take a sweep of nearly all of them, improbable but not impossible, for the Republicans to pick up the 10 seats they need to gain control of the chamber. At this point, it's possible that Democrats will end up losing only three or four seats, and they will count that as a good night.

If these trends hold - if the Republicans do gain the House without also taking control of the Senate - that would represent a historic anomaly: Not since the election of 1930 has the House changed hands without the Senate following suit.

Two national party officials, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele and Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine, gave very different predictions Sunday of what would happen on Election Day.

Steele said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that an unprecedented GOP wave would win control of both chambers as well as state legislatures, in a broad condemnation of President Obama and Democratic policies.

"The voters are tired of the fact that the federal government has not listened to them over the past two years, has moved in its own direction, at its own rhythm, and they want to pull back on that," Steele said.

Kaine, speaking on ABC's "This Week" pointed to strengthening poll numbers for his party's candidates as a sign that the Democratic base was getting energized.

"Four or five months ago, the Republicans thought they had a great chance at taking both houses," Kaine said. "For a variety of reasons, the Senate has gotten much more difficult for them. And again, we're seeing this week strong moves in polling for our Senate candidates" in several states.

Reflecting that potential trend, a Los Angeles Times/USC poll released Sunday found Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) eight points ahead of Republican challenger Carly Fiorina, and a Denver Post/SurveyUSA poll found Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) tied with Republican challenger Ken Buck, whom he had trailed for months.

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