1. Will Republicans take over the Senate?
The Republicans have the advantage, if only because they have more than enough opportunities to pick up the net of six seats they need to get to 51. The map and the national mood favor Republicans, and GOP strategists are cautiously bullish. Embattled Democratic candidates in several critically important states are running good races. Democratic strategists would like to think that enough of them could hold on to keep the Senate at no worse than 50-50.
2. Whose approval ratings matter more, Obama’s or congressional Republicans’?
Midterm elections almost always are a referendum on the president’s party, and this fall President Obama will be a drag on Democratic candidates. His national numbers are weak and haven’t improved during the course of this year. As of Friday, the Real Clear Politics average of polls showed his approval rating at 42 percent and his disapproval at 52 percent. In many of the states with competitive races, his numbers are worse — and not just in red states. Criticism of his handling of foreign policy only adds to his problems.
3. Is the election really all about turnout and who has the upper hand?
There are several ways to think about this. Persuasion — urging undecided people to vote for your candidate — and turning out loyalists are always the keys to winning an election. This year is no exception, although increasingly both Democrats and Republicans have concentrated on getting their most loyal supporters to the polls while seeming to worry a little less about trying to persuade fence-sitters to show up.