Democrats face damage from hurricane-force winds that can't be stopped now, a leading Democratic pollster said, while a top Republican cautioned that the full extent of the damage may not be known for days or even weeks.
"We knew there was a hurricane that was going to hit Washington," said Democrat Peter Hart, co-director of The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. "All we're doing is getting closer and closer and at this stage of the game it's going to be a huge hurricane."
Bill McInturff, Mr. Hart's partner in directing the Journal/NBC News poll, said key Senate elections in Nevada, California and Washington now look so close that it may not be possible to declare winners in all three on Nov. 2, the date of the mid-term elections. The need to tally absentee ballots, and possible recounts, could delay the final results for one or more of those races, Mr. McInturff said.
The two spoke on WSJ.com's "The Big Interview" show.
Given how close the fight for control of the Senate will be, a delay in calling one or more of the three tight Western races could leave the question of which party is in charge there hanging unanswered. Republicans would have to make a net gain of 10 seats in the Senate to win control, a number that they could reach only by winning most of the closest races where Democratic incumbents are fighting for re-election. In all three of the big Western states Mr. McInturff cited, Democratic incumbents—Patty Murray in Washington, Barbara Boxer in California and Harry Reid in Nevada—are in tough fights.
For his part, Mr. Hart predicted Democrats will keep control of the Senate. But he also warned that, in general, a "hurricane" is heading toward Democrats on Election Day, and that there is little they can do to avert it at this stage of the campaign.
The two pollsters agreed, though, that President Barack Obama, who is traversing the country to raise money and stump for Democrats in the campaign's closing days, remains the Democrats' best weapon in the stretch run.
The president's job-approval rating stands at 47% in the latest Journal/NBC News poll. That's up a bit from its low point last summer, and roughly comparable to where other recent presidents have been at this point in their first term. More important, Mr. McInturff noted, President Obama has a particular ability to fire up the Democratic base in those key Senate battleground states of Washington, California and Nevada, which is why he is hitting all three this week.
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