Could GOP pick up 90 seats on Election Day?

Sure, anything is possible is the short answer. However, the opposite is possible of a smaller 40+ seat gain as well. The question of 90 seats takes a different meaning when you look at some data from a NBC News – Wall Street Journal poll released today with their generic ballot findings.

Among likely voters, Republicans hold a 50% to 43% edge, up from a three-percentage-point lead a month ago.

In the broader category of registered voters, 46% favor a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared with 44% who want Republican control. But in the 92 House districts considered most competitive, the GOP’s lead among registered voters is 14 points, underscoring the Democrats’ challenge in maintaining their hold on the House. The poll of 1,000 registered voters was taken Oct. 14-18.

For the GOP to hold a 14 point advantage of registered voters in the 92 most competitive House races is stunning. These are the seats that matter, not the “Safe” seats for either party, but the toss-up seats which conventional wisdom can’t predict based on past results or sparse polling data. To see a 14 point advantage amongst registered voters compared to likely voters is amazing.

This isn’t to say that a 14-point advantage for a “generic” Republican candidate will pan out to a GOP victory in every seat. Once you zero-in on the individual races, some will stay Democrat based on the individual candidates in the race. Some Democrats will do better than others against any given Republican challenger. Put some names into the mix and the 14-point advantage will grow or disappear for any given race.

“It’s hard to say Democrats are facing anything less than a category four hurricane,” said Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster who conducts the Journal poll with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “And it’s unlikely the Democratic House will be left standing.”

Mr. McInturff said the Republican lead among likely voters, if it stood, probably would yield a pickup of 52 or 53 House seats, surpassing the net gain of 39 seats the GOP needs to claim control of the chamber.

The heightened energy among Republican-leaning voters has been a feature of public opinion for months, with many voters anxious about the economy and unhappy with the Democratic-led Congress.

I think it is safe to say a pickup of anywhere between 50 and 90 seats is possible. I know, that’s like saying you’re probably going to hit the the target if you’re shooting at the broad side of a barn. The pollsters and strategists are all over the map since everyone is trying to get a handle on voter turnout and what may really happen on Election Day.

The broader question is what about House seats that nobody even thought were competitive? Polling on the hundreds of House races is generic and sparse compared to Senate and Governor seats so it is hard to even say what seats outside the 92 most competitive might be in danger as well.

My prediction: Probably a gain of around 60 seats with a few surprises throughout the night. I hope I’m wrong, I’d like to see 90 seats but we’ll see. Proceed in explaining to me how overly optimistic you think I probably am for Republicans.