If things go according to the way the polls are reporting, the Democratic party will take over the U.S. House of Representatives in January. The pundits are all saying this and then laughing at a few key Republican politicians who are saying they're not as sure of such an outcome. I've been reading a number of poll-watching blogs every day, and I'm not convinced such an attitude deserves the derision it's getting. I'm not ready to say this is a sure thing at this point, for four reasons.
1. The first piece of information people usually present is the generic polls. The generic polls strongly favor Democrats, but people don't vote for generic representatives in Congress. They vote for their incumbent or an opponent (except in open races, where they still vote for actual people and not generic party candidates). There's a reason Congressional candidates rarely mention their party (and despite Senator Charles Schumer's claim that it's only Republicans that fail to do this, Democrats fail to do it just as much). The best way to get votes from members of the other party is to distance yourselves from the party and emphasize your individuality. Hardcore partisans will of course not be much affected by this. However, independents who are angry with Republicans and marginal Democrats who like their district's Republican representative in general are another story. They often report that they would vote for a Democrat over a Republican but then manage to vote for their particular Republican candidate anyway. So I don't think generic polls tell us as much as some people are taking them to tell us.
2. Every few days another couple seats that looked as if they would turn red to blue have been switching back to red. The movement is clearly back in the direction of the Republicans, with one election projection site even reporting only a three-seat advantage for the Democrats if the election were held today. Other sites are reporting a larger gap still, but this is the site that most accurately predicted the 2004 election results, and he takes into account factors that other sites don't seem to me to be considering (see item #4 below for one of them). The mainstream media (including Fox News) seem unwilling to mention this about the House races (some of them are saying it about the Senate) in any news reports about polling, and almost all of the pundits they give a place to seem not to be aware of this. The governor races do seem to be going leftward in the polls, with two more shifting to blue in the last week, but he movement I'm seeing in House and Senate polls is not by and large leftward. It's rightward. Only a couple of the poll-watching blogs are not acknowledging this, and those are by very partisan Democrats who I think are just in denial. This does not mean that enough seats will move back to red to put a halt to a Democratic takeover, but it's surprising that I'm not hearing much about this anywhere except on blogs.