I mentioned this briefly in a post the other day about the AJC's poll of the top statewide races in Georgia this year, but one reason Republicans might breathe a little easier between now and November is if it appears the party is poised to win big nationally. And there is evidence that will be the case.
The Washington Post's Scott Clement parses recent national polling data from four sources measuring "generic ballot" support for Democrats vs. Republicans in congressional races and finds:
"All four polls show Republicans performing better among likely voters than among registered ones. The shift in the Democratic-Republican margin from registered to likely voters within each poll gives a sense of Republicans' current turnout advantage. Each poll shows Republicans do better among likely voters, with the swing in congressional support ranging from a three-points in the Fox News poll (Democrats -4 to -7) to an eight-point swing in the Pew Research Center survey (Dems +5 to -3). The Washington Post-ABC News and CNN-ORC polls fall in the middle of that spectrum.
"The average likely voter swing toward Republicans is 5.5 percentage points across the four polls, slightly smaller than Republicans' advantage in 2010 (a 6.3-point swing toward Republicans) but clearly larger than in other recent midterms like 2006 (a 1-point swing) or 2002 (a 2.5-point swing)."
The historical comparisons are where this gets interesting. As we all know, 2010 was a big year for Republicans; 2006 was a big year for Democrats. For the GOP's showing on this metric to be much closer to 2010 than to 2006 is a good sign for Republican candidates.
Now, you would be correct right about here to wonder to yourself whether the "likely voter" screen is really all that effective. That's the part of polling that is as much art as science, and a lot of pollsters' likely-voter numbers leading up to the 2012 election ended up looking bad.
Clement includes a direct comparison between 2010 and 2014 results from two pollsters attempting to determine who's likely to vote and to which party they lean. I think it's instructive.
He finds the GOP has an 8-point lead among those who told the WaPo-ABC pollster they're "certain to vote" to vote this year, compared to a 13-point lead among the same group in the same poll four years ago. Pew, however, found an almost identical edge for the GOP among those who said they'd "definitely vote": 12 points this year vs. 14 points in 2010.
Of course, some people who aren't "certain" voters now will end up casting ballots in this election. How many such people vote will be key. But these questions did a pretty good job of indicating how things would go in 2010, so it's reasonable to expect them to perform similarly this year.
The $64,000 question, then, is whether all this will mean anything in Georgia specifically.
In Republicans' favor: If it appears the GOP will win a majority in the Senate, voters who lean its way may be more fired-up to show up and cast their ballots for David Perdue. And that could have a positive knock-on effect in the governor's race and on down the ballot.
Democrats, meanwhile, can hope such a result doesn't look so clear-cut, or that a win by Michelle Nunn would preserve their Senate majority. Or they can hope that split-ticket voting, plus local electoral dynamics that don't factor into the national picture, means any national "wave" effect for the GOP doesn't affect the race between Gov. Nathan Deal and challenger Jason Carter.
Me? If this continues to shape up as a big year outside Georgia for Republicans, I have a hard time believing this still-mostly-red state won't be part of that. And as of today, it still looks like it's going to be a good year nationally for the GOP.