If you dare predict less than doom and gloom for Democrats these days you have to turn in your pundit credentials; witness the latest Stuart Rothenberg list.
But at the latest meeting of the American Political Science Association, the University of Iowa's Michael Lewis-Beck was the least pessimistic:
Lewis-Beck predicted a Republican gain of just 22 seats. He collaborated with Charles Tien of CUNY Hunter College on a more than 30-year-old "referendum" model based on measurements earlier this year. Their model was the only one to exclude measurements of the current seat division between Democrats and Republicans.At this point, minus 22 would look like a Democratic triumph, and fit perfectly into my "It's 1982 not 1994" theory. Minus 22 is just flushing a few fluke winners away.
Lewis-Beck argued that the "the best models are based on theory ... things that we know [or] that we're pretty certain we know," which in this case means the belief that "people vote about the main direction of the economy, and they vote about big macro political issues," especially in midterm elections.
Also note: The doom and gloom polls focus on likely voters, not registered voters, and registered voter polls look better for Democrats. That means Democrats have more to gain (or have nowhere to go but up). Field work is what turns registered voters into likely voters into actual voters, and Democrats do it better. (Republicans prefer to make their efforts at things like recruiting homeless dudes to run as Green Party candidates.)
Not to mention: In 1994, Newt Gingrich didn't start to over-reach until he't actually won the House. The Tea Parties are over-reaching even before Election Day (see Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Joe Miller...)