Michael Barone, one of those rare Solomon-like guys analyzing politics today, has a long blog on the 1994 elections (he was one of the first in 1994 to note that the Dems may be having a problem with incumbent House members). Inevitably, he compares 1994 with 2006:
"Some comments in conclusion. Examination of the above factors leads me to conclude that 2006 is not another 1994-at least not yet. But Democrats need only 15/40ths of a 1994 to win control. As I mentioned in my column, there has been an eerie, historically unusual continuity in the House vote in the last five elections, from 1996 to 2004: Republicans have won between 49 and 51 percent of the popular vote, Democrats between 46 and 48.5 percent. Thats also where youll find the percentages in the 2004 presidential race. And the regional and demographic political contours underneath them have been remarkably steady too. If those continue to prevail, a House majority is almost surely out of reach for the Democrats.
Some Democrats point to their partys big lead in the polls generic vote questions-which partys candidate will you vote for in the House? But over the last 10 years the Democrats have been ahead in the generic vote for almost all the time, and in that same time they have been behind in popular votes and in seats won in five straight House elections. Many Democratic pollsters acknowledge that the generic vote question doesnt seem to be a good predictor of election outcomes.
One reason that it hasnt been is that polls dont reflect turnout. Current polls tend to show Democrats with a lead in party identification-37-28 percent in the CBS poll that showed Bush with 34 percent job approval. But the 2004 electorate as shown in the adjusted NEP exit poll was 37-37 percent–the most Republican electorate since the advent of random sample polling in 1935. The reason: the Republicans brilliant and mostly unheralded, volunteer-driven and networking turnout drive in 2004. John Kerry got 16 percent more popular votes than Al Gore; George W. Bush 2004 got 23 percent more popular votes than George W. Bush 2000. That means that Republicans have a larger reservoir of potential voters to draw on in this off-year election, when turnout will inevitably be lower than in the presidential year. They also have, more or less in place, the organization that produced that turnout. Thats a silent advantage for Republicans this year. Its one reason that there seems to be optimism in the vicinity of Karl Roves office in the West Wing and Ken Mehlmans at the Republican National Committee."