THE WEEK IN POLLS: GOP House takeover increasingly likely

Political observers are getting stronger in their conviction that Republicans will retake the House in November.

Charlie Cook wrote Tuesday that “it seems extremely likely that the GOP will regain control of the House, but it is less clear whether this election is headed for net seat gains in the 40s or 50s or if the number will be even higher.”

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Republicans need 39 seats to take the Speaker’s gavel. Cook was the first of the respected political forecasters to predict Republicans will retake the lower chamber. His estimates of the number of seats the GOP will gain have been rising.

But control of the Senate remains up in the air. Traditionally, when the House flips, the Senate also switches, but that might not be the case this cycle.

Cook writes of the upper chamber: “We could see Republican gains of seven or eight seats, but they could be as high as nine or 10.” Republicans need 10 seats to gain the Senate.

Pelosi: ‘I fully expect to be Speaker’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) maintains she will retain her gavel.

“I fully expect to be Speaker of the House five weeks from now,” Pelosi said at a NBC/Universal women's forum in Manhattan, according to The New York Times.

“I have great confidence in my candidates,” she said, “and they’re doing just fine in their districts.”

The Cook Report also moved five House races from solid Democrat to likely Democrat. Those are Reps. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.).

And NBC’s political unit updated its list of the 64 House seats they predict are most likely to switch parties in the fall. The list features 58 Democratic-held seats and six Republican-held seats.

The October surprise

But Rhodes Cook, writing in Sabato’s Crystal Ball on Thursday, reminds people of the 1962 midterm election, in which Democrats were expecting heaving losses — until President Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis in October of that year boosted his and his party’s approval ratings.

Cook writes of ‘62’s “October surprise”: “The president’s popularity soared. And his Democratic colleagues in Congress, many of whom were bracing for significant midterm election losses, saw their numbers stay virtually unchanged on Election Day. The Democrats lost only four seats in the House, while gaining a handful of seats in the Senate — a far cry from the heavy losses that the president’s party has usually sustained in midterm elections.”

Tough customers … and good predictors

Another interesting finding in this anti-incumbent year, a Monday Pew poll showed voters are being tough on their own lawmakers. Respondents usually give better marks to their home-state lawmakers compared to their answers to the generic congressional ballot question.

Pew notes: “In another sign of the broad anti-incumbent sentiment that has been evident this election year, twice as many Americans (56%) say their own representative in the House has done only a fair or poor job than say he or she has done an excellent or good job (28%).”

Gallup also found Republicans are confident their party will control the House next year. Their findings: More than eight in 10 Republicans believe their party will control the lower chamber, while 62 percent of Democrats think it will be their party. And independents are evenly split on the issue.

In its analysis, Gallup notes: “Americans have been quite successful in forecasting election outcomes, correctly predicting the winner of each of the four prior midterm elections when Gallup asked the same question in 1946, 1958, 1962 and 2006. The public also correctly predicted Barack Obama would win the 2008 presidential election.”

I don’t approve

A Gallup poll also shows broad dissatisfaction with Congress — only 18 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, the lowest number before any midterm since 1974, according to Gallup, which notes: “Everything else being equal, a congressional job approval rating at this level predicts major seat turnover in the midterm elections.”

A Wednesday NBC News/Wall Street Journal also gave Congress low marks, with 73 percent disapproving of the governing body.

“I still think you’re looking at a very difficult year for the Democrats,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who worked on the poll.

And 51 percent of those polled said it’s unacceptable that Pelosi continue as Speaker.

Generic ballot still tied

Meanwhile, the party’s head-to-head matchup on the congressional generic ballot remains close, with a Gallup poll showing the parties tied at 46 percent. The parties were also tied in last week’s poll.

Gallup also found President Obama's job approval rating is below 50 percent with 44 percent giving him the thumbs up.

"This is not an auspicious sign for Democrats, because history shows that presidents who have sub-50 percent approval ratings prior to midterm elections generally see their parties suffer large congressional seat losses," Gallup wrote in its analysis.

State by state: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida

Meanwhile, there was a lot of movement in individual races:

— A Wednesday CNN-Time-Opinion Research poll found that in Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) is in a statistical tie with Republican nominee Joe Miller. Miller has a slight lead with likely voters, 38 percent to Murkowski’s 36 percent, while Democrat Scott McAdams is behind with 20 percent.

The pollster asked the question this way: “If the election for U.S. Senate were held today and the candidates were Scott McAdams, the Democrat, and Joe Miller, the Republican, who would you be more likely to vote for or would you write in the name of Lisa Murkowski, who is also running?”

"Senior citizens may be a hidden advantage to Murkowski's write-in candidacy," CNN polling director Keating Holland told the network. "Not only are they slightly more likely to vote in midterms, they are also the most experienced voters and may be most familiar with the often puzzling process of casting a write-in vote."

— Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) got some good news out of that CNN-TIME–Opinion Research poll. Among likely voters, she led Republican Carly Fiorina 52 percent to 43 percent.

— In Connecticut, Republican candidate Linda McMahon has managed to cut into Democrat Richard Blumenthal’s lead, closing what was once a double-digit gap.

A Tuesday Quinnipiac poll had McMahon trailing by just 3 percentage points: 49 percent to 46 percent with 4 percent of voters still undecided. In a Q-Poll from earlier this month, Blumenthal's lead was slightly larger: 51 percent to 45 percent.

"Blumenthal has to be concerned about Linda McMahon's momentum," said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz. "McMahon clearly is capitalizing on the anger that one-third of voters are feeling toward the federal government."

A Rasmussen poll showed similar numbers: Blumenthal led by 5 points, 59 percent to 45 percent.

Rasmussen notes in its analysis: “This is the closest the race has been since May when The New York Times detailed in an article how Blumenthal has been embellishing his military record in public statements over the years.”

— Independent Florida Senate candidate Charlie Crist is seeing his poll numbers continue to spiral downward.

A Monday Mason-Dixon poll found Democrat Kendrick Meek has gained on Crist and pollsters attribute that to independent voters moving away from the governor.

Republican candidate Marco Rubio continues to lead with 40 percent to Crist’s 28 percent and Meek’s 23 percent. Only 9 percent were undecided.

Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker told The Tampa Tribune Rubio is in good shape.

"Sitting on 40 percent in a three-way race is a very strong position to hold" and puts Rubio only a few percentage points away from virtually certain victory, he said.

The poll also found Meek has gained significantly among Democrats since the primary — and those gains nearly all came at Crist's expense.

For the first time in Mason-Dixon’s polling, Meek led Crist among Democratic voters, 44 percent to 37 percent.

Coker told the paper that if Rubio “gains even a couple of percentage points more than his current 40 percent, he could lose only if Democrats almost totally abandon either Crist or Meek — an unlikely scenario.”

A Quinnipiac poll out Thursday showed Rubio maintaining his double-digit lead. Rubio had 46 percent to Crist’s 33 percent and Meek’s 18 percent.

Shane D’Aprile and Jordan Fabian contributed to this article.