GOP could still keep House majority
04:28 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

House forecast: Democrats will win 226 seats (and the House majority) while Republicans will win just 209 seats. A Democratic win of 203 seats and 262 seats is within the margin of error.

Senate forecast: Republicans will hold 52 seats (and maintain control of the Senate) next Congress while Democrats will hold just 48. Anything between Republicans holding 48 seats and 56 seats is within the margin of error.

The final weekend of the long 2018 campaign is coming to a close.

Sometimes the final weekend brings clarity. This weekend brings no such thing. Instead, Democrats remain modest — though not runaway — favorites to gain House control.

Two generic congressional ballot polls released on Sunday put Democrats on the cusp of taking back the House. The ABC News/Washington Post poll puts Democrats up by 8 points. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal gives the Democrats a 7-point lead.

A 7- or 8-point lead nationally also barely clears the line where Democrats want to be in order to get a majority of seats in the House. That line probably stands at about 6 points.

Given the accuracy of the generic ballot historically, it wouldn’t be shocking for the polls to be off by 2-3 points. That is, the national polling still suggests that Republicans could maintain control.

Republicans can take some heart in the fact the the ABC News/Washington Post and NBC/Wall Street Journal polls suggest, if anything, a little momentum on the Republicans’ side. The Democratic advantage on the generic ballot is down 5 points from the last ABC News/Washington Post poll and 2 points from the last NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

Still, we probably shouldn’t read too much into “momentum” for a few reasons. Both of those polls are right about where the generic ballot average has been for the better part of the last six months. In other words, the prior polls (especially the ABC News/Washington Post poll) were a little bit of outliers compared to the average. These are right in line with them.

Additionally, there may actually be a sign that individual districts are breaking towards the Democrats. Professor Patrick Egan of NYU traced the New York Times/Siena College district polls and shows that polls conducted over the last week have been more Democratic compared to the district’s partisan baseline than polls taken earlier in the campaign.

One such district is in the suburban New Jersey’s 7th District. Republicans probably need to win that seat in order to maintain control. Instead, the Siena College poll found Democrat Tom Malinowski ahead of Republican Rep. Leonard Lance 47% to 39%. A previous Siena poll actually had Lance ahead by a point. The new poll in large part matches a Monmouth College poll released this past week that has Malinowski ahead by 3 points. (The Forecast has Malinowski winning by 3 points.)

A plausible conclusion to reach is that the district polling is “catching-up” to the national polling in areas represented by incumbents. Another example of this phenomenon is in Illinois’s 6th District. Rep. Peter Roskam’s has regularly been called an underdog by race raters such as the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections. A Siena College poll in early September had Roskam ahead of his Democratic challenger Sean Casten 45% to 44%, while the latest Siena poll had him up behind 46% to 44%. (The Forecast has Roskam losing by 2 points.)

You’ll note though that neither of these forecasted wins are a particularly large margin. Indeed, the district polls, district forecasts and national polls agree that the district that puts Democrats over the top will not be won by a large margin. That means Democrats are still susceptible to a national polling error allowing Republicans to barely hold on.