There have been several discussions lately comparing different frames of reference on this election. There have been comparisons between "Blog Time" and "Mainstream Media Time" that asks which frame of reference will hold through the election and what the implications will be for the old and the new media. There has been speculation as to whether there will be a wave as the mainstream media speculates (and is frankly pimping for) or whether it will be a non-wave and what the implications will be for the old media if a wave doesn't happen. Today, John McIntyre at the Real Clear Politics blog compares two world views of polls and what is happening in this election.
1) Republicans are in big trouble. The generic ballot shows a huge lead for Democrats (over 15%) with fewer than 10 days until the election. Republicans in contested races are either trailing or polling in the mid-40's, and given the national mood toward the GOP as seen in the generic ballot, it is reasonable to assume that these races will break for the Democrats. With the close races tipping the Democrats way they are poised for substantial pickups in the House of 25 seats or more and perhaps the six seats needed for a majority in the Senate.
2)The generic ballot is problematic and is over sampling Democrats, pushing the raw numbers higher for the Dems than they should be. Trying to use the generic ballot to predict who will then win x, y and z house races is a jump that can't be made soundly. In 2004 the voter turnout was 60% of eligible voters. In 2002 and 1998 in the two previous midterms it was 40%. What if a significant number of that 15%-20% who aren't going to show up at the polls this year come from soft voters in the middle? These are the exact group of voters that are helping drive the big polling numbers for Democrats. What if they don't show up in these contested races at the same proportion they are representing in many of these polls? Following this line of thinking, it is possible the bulk of the races that the polls now say are close will actually go to the GOP because the pollsters aren't sampling a representative field of who will actually vote in the contested races.
McIntyre points out that the data (at least in Senate races) appears to be supporting the second viewpoint, which is where Karl Rove appears to believe the election will go. But it is not a certainty, nor is it evident that it will break that way in all cases.