Your 30-second guide to 2014 midterms

Here's the bottom line: Republicans are likely to take control of the Senate and keep control of the House, but only if lots of registered voters who don't want that to happen sit out midterm elections, as they have in the past.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Terry Wood (c.) and other workers at Campbellsville Apparel, a military garment manufacturer, listen to an appeal from Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Ky., in Campbellsville, Ky., on Tuesday, during the final week before the midterm election that could shift the balance of power in Congress. President Obama is deeply unpopular in the state.

The United States is slouching toward a midterm election next Tuesday. Americans aren’t in a great mood about the state of the nation and are paying even less attention to the upcoming vote than normal.

According to a just-released Washington Post/ABC News poll, 68 percent of registered voters say they are following midterm news at least “somewhat closely." Four years ago, the corresponding figure for the 2010 midterms was 76 percent. In 2006, it was 78 percent.

Given this relative disinterest, we’ll just hit the analytic high points as we see them with one week to go. Then, readers can move on to stories they might find more uplifting.

Republicans are increasingly likely to win the big prize. Virtually all forecasting models show the GOP’s chances of taking control of the Senate are quite good and have moved up in recent days. The Vox average of major predictors puts the average likelihood of Republican Senate victory at 69 percent.

But "likely" doesn't mean "certain." The aforementioned figure corresponds with a 31 percent chance of Democrats keeping Senate control. That’s about the same as the likelihood of a .310 hitter in baseball getting a hit in one particular at-bat.

As 538 data site polling guru Nate Silver points out, the GOP has maintained a consistent lead in the Senate rankings this fall, but not a decisive one. Some races, such as those in Georgia and perhaps Kentucky have moved in the opposite direction of national surveys, toward Democrats.

“Republicans have the edge, but they haven’t been able to put Democrats away,” writes Mr. Silver.

Voters dislike Obama and lots else. The president’s poor approval ratings are obviously a drag on Democratic prospects. Obama’s job approval average for his just-completed 23rd quarter in office was 41.5 percent, according to Gallup. That’s among the lowest such ratings for any post-World War II US chief executive, and it’s “creating a strong headwind for Democratic candidates," writes Gallup’s Jeffrey M. Jones.

But wait, there’s more. Overall discontent in the nation is “palpable," according to ABC’s Gary Langer.

Seventy percent of voters rate the economy negatively, according to the new Washington Post/ABC News poll. Sixty-eight percent say the country is on the wrong track.

Sixty percent say they have no more than a little trust in the government to do what’s right. Fifty-three percent say the government’s ability to function in crises has declined in recent years.

For the party in power, that’s not just a headwind. It’s a derecho.

Non-voters swing elections, just like voters. It’s an old point, but turnout is a huge deal in midterm elections. There’ s a bit in the Post survey that shows just how big a swing this can be.

Among those the pollsters judge “likely voters,” 50 percent say they’ll vote Republican for their own House district. Forty-four percent say they’ll vote Democratic. This is in line with predictions that the GOP will easily keep House control.

Among the larger universe of registered voters, it’s a different story. Democrats lead there, 47 to 44 percent. But that’s not the electorate that’s going to turn out next Tuesday, most likely.

Left-leaning pundit Greg Sargent calls this a “demographic brick wall: the persistent tendency of core Democratic voter groups to sit out midterm elections.”

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.