Republicans feel bolstered by new campaign numbers

Republicans argue 2010 will be a “wave year,” touting poll numbers that back their claims.

“It’s a wave year,” said Glen Bolger, a GOP pollster. “The question is, ‘How high is the wave?’” 

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By some estimates, it could be a tsunami. But Democrats say they don’t see it that way. They released internal numbers from several competitive House districts on Tuesday that show their endangered incumbents doing well.

There is no doubting Republicans enter the post-Labor Day campaign stretch invigorated by a steady drip of national and internal polls that show them reclaiming power in November.

Political prognosticators Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook on Tuesday significantly upped their projected gains for Republicans this fall, forecasting increases that would hand GOP control of the House.

And White House senior adviser David Plouffe said Tuesday he believes 70 House races and 15 Senate races are in play this fall.

National polls released Tuesday helped boost Republican confidence.

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 56 percent of registered voters said they would prefer to give a new person a chance when casting their vote this fall. Those results were mirrored in an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

The ABC/Post poll also found 55 percent said they believed it was important to have Republicans control Congress “to act as a check on [President] Obama’s policies” while the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed likely voters prefer a Republican candidate to a Democratic candidate 49 percent to 40 percent.

In an unusual move, Democrats rebutted by releasing some internal polling. The party has been criticized for hoarding their numbers. 

The release came from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s independent expenditure arm, which has used a handful of firms to conduct close to 20 House race surveys. But so far, Democrats have only released results on five races.

“They are putting out a handful of polls that, at best, could be considered mixed results,” said Bolger. “That shows you how grim the national story is for them.”

The DCCC said in the release the numbers show their candidates are in a “strong position” for November.

The party highlighted positive internal numbers in districts held by Democratic Reps. Bobby Bright (Ala.), Tom Perriello (Va.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Michael Arcuri (N.Y.), and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.). All of those incumbents are running in Republican-leaning districts. The polls show all but Perriello winning, and the Virginia lawmaker is within the margin of error, only down by 2 points.

And with the exception of Kissell, they are all Democrats who won in districts where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) topped President Obama in 2008.

Seven other Democrats, including Rep. Travis Childers (D-Miss.), have recently released internal polls on their own accord. Childers’ poll had him leading Republican Alan Nunnelee by 5 points, but that was within the margin of error.

Democrats also touted Gallup’s weekly tracking poll Tuesday, which showed Republicans and Democrats tied at 46 percent among registered voters. It marks a shift after five consecutive weeks in which the Republicans held the advantage.

Republicans need 39 seats in the House to take control and 10 seats in the Senate.

Democratic pollster John Anzalone, whose clients include Blue Dog Dems like Bright, Childers and Kissell, noted that Democrats are only beginning to communicate with voters and said he expects “a ton of movement” over the next month.

“You have a lot of districts where Republicans may look good today, but their candidates aren’t as well funded and Democrats have just started communicating,” he said.

“Republicans are doing what they need to do to cement the narrative so they can keep raising money. It’s no different than what we did in ‘06 and ‘08.”

Bolger, meanwhile, said the Democrats are borrowing from the GOP’s ’06 playbook.

“They’re doing everything Republicans tried in 2006,” he said, citing negative advertising, an election framed as a choice not a referendum and running away from the president “like they never heard of this guy named Obama.”

“Trust me, I wasn’t putting out too many of my polls in ‘06 and ‘08,” said Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin, whose firm is polling for many House Republican candidates this fall.

The game of internals, McLaughlin said, is as much about generating the appearance of momentum nationally as it is about helping individual candidates raise money and generate energy district by district.

But McLaughlin said there is always some danger in leaking internal numbers even in what looks like a wave year for Republicans.

He recalls former Rep. Michael Flanagan’s (R-Ill.) 1994 race against the late Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.). Flanagan upended the longtime incumbent amidst ethics issues, but McLaughlin said leaked Republican internals that showed Flanagan up by 10 points “woke Rostenkowski up” and the incumbent tightened the race late by upping his campaign effort and pouring in resources.

Michael O’Brien contributed to this article.